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Port Coquitlam brewery ready to fill gap if BCGEU strike leads to alcohol shortage

The BCGEU issued 72-hour strike notice last Friday and workers at several government liquor distribution centres set up picket lines on Monday.
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Phil Smith stands amidst the forest of six stainless steel tanks at Port Coquitlam's Tinhouse Brewing.

A local craft brewer said the labour dispute that’s put several government liquor wholesale and distribution centres behind picket lines could mean more demand for his product.

But Phil Smith, of Tinhouse Brewing in Port Coquitlam, said he’s not planning to boost production yet.

Smith said he’s got a good supply of beer already to go in his brewery’s giant refrigerator should pubs and private beer and wine store start calling because their supply from the government distribution network is running out.

Since the job action by the BC General Employees’ Union (BCGEU) started on Monday at distribution centres in Delta, Kamloops, Richmond, Victoria and Burnaby started on Monday, some pubs and private liquor stores have reported shortages of stock.

Andrea Ligas, the manager of Jak’s Beer, Wine and Spirits on Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam, said while his shop has already missed a delivery from the government distributor, the shelves and coolers remain fairly well stocked.

He said with government liquor stores still open, he also hasn’t seen any panic buying from customers. But, he added, that could change if the strike drags on.

“If it does go on, there will be some shortages,” he said.

The BCGEU, that represents 33,000 members who work for the provincial government, issued 72-hours’ strike notice last Friday (Aug. 16), saying it would begin its job action at targeted sites. The union said it’s working “to get a deal which provides appropriate cost of living protection” for its members’ wages.

Smith said as most small craft brewers distribute their product directly to retailers and pubs, his phone could start ringing more if the government distribution network stays behind picket lines for an extended period of time.

But Ligas said he’s confident it won’t get that far. With the current spell of hot weather driving up demand for refreshing beverages, the pressure to resolve the dispute is on, and he’s hopeful that will happen sooner rather than later.