At the Blasted Church tasting last month, I met Frank Haddad, Executive Director of Modernize Wine, an organization pushing for relaxed liquor laws. Those are the folks that brought the Bring Your Own Wine policy to BC, about which I thanked them profusely.
But with all the food and wine, that tasting was no time to talk politics. So I promised Frank I’d follow up, this time via email, to learn more about Modernize Wine.
How did Modernize Wine organize?
Modernize wine officially started in Jan 2012 when it was registered as a Society in British Columbia. There are current board members that were involved in the FreeMyGrapes movement, but on a pretty ad hoc basis. While discussing and working for FreeMYGrapes many BC issues where being discussed, indicating a need for change. The group decided to use the lessons learned from Free My Grapes and apply them to try and effect change to some of the policies regarding Liquor and Wine in the Province.
We have board members from wineries, stores, restaurants and consumers. We are using social media as well as board members contacts with main stream media. We are also lobbying with all political parties to inform the politicians of the issues and what can be changed.
What is MW’s greatest accomplishment so far?
I would say getting Corkage (Bring your own wine) allowed in the Province was probably the biggest so far in modernizing wine culture in BC.
What are you currently focused on?
Our current campaign is focusing on the problems that Charity wine auctions now have.
The LCLB is now taking the position that the only wines that can be auctioned at a licensed charity fundraiser event are wines that have been donated either by a manufacturer or an agent. Privately-donated wine can no longer be auctioned at an event that is licensed. Obviously, this provides major problems and loss of revenue for many charities which, for decades, have been holding wine auctions using both privately-donated wine and wines donated from manufacturers/agents. It appears to be a particularly silly policy change because a loss of revenue for a hospital or other charity may mean that the charity will have to look to government to make up the funding shortfall.
What will be your next big push?
Aside from any featured current issues that MWA is addressing, MWA has also identified the following issues as ones that need attention:
To allow educational wine tastings wine orders at tasting events; allow secondary tasting rooms; allow off-site storage for restaurants and retail stores ; and to allow restaurants to purchase wine from private stores.
Who is opposing modernization?
This is a hard question to answer, because of the patchwork of legislation and policy; different groups have different interests to protect. An example there are different discounts for different types of stores and the restaurants have no discount at all. On one issue a group might be in agreement that change is required, but will not want something changed that would materially affect them – in any way. One of the challenges that Modernize Wine faces is to get agreements on any issue. You will see that it is quite complicated.
As the lobbyist for Modernize Wine, what is
your job like?
This is by no means a full time job; depending on what is going on, up to twenty hours a month. Most of my time is spent talking to other groups and educating consumers. We try very hard to be apolitical; we talk to both sides of the legislature. Many politicians, like most consumers, are not aware of the various policies and regulations, so lots of time is spent informing both.
How can consumers and industry support you?
We have a Take Action area on the web site to direct folks to their local MLAS. The more people that write or e mail the pols on changes that need to happen the sooner things will change.
Our biggest challenge at the moment is fundraising to be able to maintain the web site, travel expenses to talk with politicians and special interest groups.
People can follow us on Twitter and talk about the issues every Wednesday night at 8pm using the hashtag #BCwinechat.
Thanks for emailing with me, Frank. Please keep up the good work!
Frank Haddad CSW CSS, can be followed at #haddadfrank and on his blog, In the Glass.
Modernize Wine has just announced an inaugural fundraiser on February 18 at 5pm at Provence Marinaside. You can buy tickets at Eventbrite, while they last.
Wine modernization may just around the corner! What would you change next?