Dwight Cameron

Specialty wine store planned for Warfield

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A Warfield business owner is concerned that an addition of an independent liquor store in the village could jeopardize his cold beer and wine store.

“It’s direct competition, the pie is already small enough,” said Roy Benedict, owner of Tunnel Beer Wine and Liquor Store, which is in the same building as Benedicts Steakhouse and the Tunnel Pub.

He was reacting to the news that Warren Hamm, former owner of the Rock Cut Pub in Rossland, has decided to set up an independent liquor store in Warfield Food Mart.

Benedict has written to the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch in hopes Hamm’s application for a liquor license is rejected.

Hamm’s new business venture will focus on specialty wines.

“Introducing another store so close would seem to be counterproductive for everyone,” Benedict wrote in his letter.

“Surely Rossland – already famous for their specialty stores and boutiques, not only for locals but for the tourist and travel industry – would seem to be a preferred location for another (store) for the catchment area of upper Rossland, Red Mountain residents and the visitors from afar who travel through and visit the area.”

Hamm has purchased the food mart with plans of renovating the building to give it an up-to-date look like its neighbours – Fas Gas Plus and the Cornerstone Café and Deli. Upgrades will start in April with the goal of opening the store in June.

Specialty wines hand-picked from B.C. wineries, which are generally unavailable at other stores in Greater Trail, will be the focus of the new store. But Hamm also intends to supply fine wine from across the world, beer and spirits.

He would like to continue to lease out the kitchen to an operator, but doesn’t intend to sell groceries out of the store, leaving convenience sales to the gas station.

“I just think there is a market for specialty wines. It seems like a great location in Warfield,” said Hamm, noting the convenience for residents stopping to fill their tank and Rosslanders traveling home from a day’s work in Trail.

Though he acknowledged Benedict’s concerns about two stores within five kilometres, he feels there is enough business to go around.

“Certainly it will have an effect but in Trail there are a few (independent liquor stores) within a couple kilometres of each other and I think they’re doing quite well,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working together.”

Though the Tunnel Beer Wine and Liquor Store doesn’t focus on specialty wine, Benedict said that the business has brought in products by customer request.

“It’s a fact that although most of our revenue is from a six-pack to go and $12 wine sales, we have introduced many selective wines to our inventory as a means to cater to the more discerning population and help maintain sales and revenue,” he noted.

Benedict, whose restaurant has been open for 30 years, said it’s been hard enough to stay afloat over the liquor store’s four years in operation, but now with the HST and new drinking and driving laws, his sales have slowed down by 20 to 40 per cent.

“This should have been brought to our attention, it’s been done underhandedly,” he said, adding the village should have taken the time to meet with him and canvass the area for resident input.

Warfield administrator Vince Morelli indicated the village is aware of Benedict’s concerns but said the decision on a liquor license, which Hamm has received pre-approval for, is out of the municipality’s hands.

The food mart is zoned commercial and liquor falls under possible items to sell out of a retail shop.

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