Drinking in BC up during COVID-19 pandemic

It’s official: British Columbians have been drinking more alcohol during the COVID-19 pandemic, with private liquor store sales accounting for the bulk of the increase in consumption—and the biggest spikes happening during lockdown.

New analysis of BC alcohol sales data from UVic’s Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research (CISUR) shows that, although increases in overall alcohol consumption were modest, there was a significant rise in alcohol purchased in liquor stores.

Government vs. private alcohol sales

Private liquor stores saw per capita consumption rise 18.5 per cent in March-July 2020 (the last recent month for which data was available) compared to 2019. At government stores, consumption rose by about eight per cent. Last year, about half of all alcohol consumed in BC was purchased at a private liquor store, a number that has been rising steadily for the past two decades.

“We suspect part of this increase at private stores has to do with the fact they have been making alcohol more convenient to buy, by offering home delivery with a minimum order or listing its products on third-party delivery apps,” says CISUR scientist Tim Stockwell, who led the analysis. “Government stores are not using these services.”


Deseasonalized^ monthly per capita alcohol consumption in number of standard drinks* in British Columbia by venue