Jurisdictional Overview

About liquor in Alberta*

Alberta has a privatized retail liquor system, where our 2,250 retailers – including specialty stores, large chains, small independent stores, and hotel and manufacturer off-sales –  sell more than 29,000 liquor products from Alberta, Canada and the world to consumers in the province.

In addition, Alberta’s local liquor industry continues to grow. Alberta currently has 179 liquor manufacturers licensed to operate in Alberta, including breweries, distilleries, estate manufacturers (i.e., estate wineries and meaderies) and refreshment beverage manufacturers (i.e., coolers/ciders/ready-to-drink beverages/kombucha).

Through Alberta’s open and competitive market, consumers enjoy competitive prices and great product selection. In 2018, Alberta’s alcoholic beverage sales exceeded $2.57 billion.

Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) oversees the gaming, liquor and cannabis industries in Alberta. AGLC:

  • administers and enforces the Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis Act and the Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis Regulation;
  • establishes and enforces liquor policies in Alberta that govern the sale, consumption, importation, manufacture, possession, storage and distribution/use of liquor in the province; and 
  • collects a markup from the sale of liquor in Alberta and remits it to the General Revenue Fund (less expenses). In 2018/19, the provincial markup contributed $861 million to the provincial treasury.

For more information about Alberta’s liquor market, visit https://aglc.ca/liquor or https://aglc.ca/liquor/about-liquor-alberta/albertas-liquor-model.

*Statistics quoted are as of October 31, 2019.

Listing process

How do I introduce new products into Alberta?

New products are easy to introduce into Alberta. The liquor manufacturer or representative registers the product through AGLC’s Liquor Agency Portal (LAP). It can take AGLC up to two weeks to process a registration. For more information, visit AGLC’s new product registration page.

Do I need a registered liquor agency to represent me?

If you wish to import liquor to Alberta, you must be represented by a registered agency that will ship products and market them in Alberta. You can either appoint a registered agency or register your own company as a liquor agency to represent your products.

When a liquor supplier engages a registered agency to represent its products, the supplier must complete a Letter of Authorization that designates the appointed liquor agency for their particular product brands.  In parallel, the designated liquor agency must complete a Letter of Understanding that confirms the agreement with the supplier.

For more information, visit AGLC’s liquor agencies and suppliers page.

Labelling and packaging requirements

What are the labelling and packaging requirements in Alberta?

All liquor products sold in Alberta must meet Canadian labelling requirements for alcoholic beverages and be in safe containers and packaging. AGLC does not require the Product Code or Universal Product Code (UPC) to be printed on the product’s packaging or label.

Laboratory testing requirements

What are the laboratory testing requirements in Alberta?

There are no laboratory testing requirements for liquor products sold in Alberta. However, AGLC retains the right to request a sample for analysis. 

In addition, AGLC investigates all faulty product claims. Products found to be unsafe may be discontinued.

Pricing components

What components make up the price of liquor in Alberta?

Several components make up the price of liquor sold in Alberta.

  • Liquor manufacturers (or their agents) set an invoice price for a product. 
  • From the invoice price, AGLC creates a wholesale price. The wholesale price includes:
    • container deposits and recycling fees;
    • provincial markup; and
    • federal customs and excise duties (as applicable) and the GST.
  • Liquor retailers purchase products at the wholesale price. 
  • Retailers set the final shelf price that consumers pay, which includes a retail margin added to the wholesale price.

For more information, visit AGLC’s Journey of a Bottle.

Sales channels and distribution

How does the sale and distribution of liquor products work in Alberta?

As AGLC is the legal importer of record for liquor in Alberta, manufacturers (or agencies that represent them ) sell liquor products to retailers through AGLC:

  • Manufacturers (or the agencies that represent them ) of spirits, wine, coolers and imported/domestic beer ship their product to the privately operated central AGLC warehouse. This warehouse receives and stores product from over 70 countries.
  • In addition, there are also four large warehousers that are authorized to store and distribute domestic beer.
  • Retailers purchase products from AGLC approved warehouses. All liquor products in the central warehouse can be found at liquorconnect.com. Retailers may also purchase directly from Alberta manufacturers.
  • Products are shipped to the retailer from the central AGLC warehouse, a domestic beer warehouse, or directly from an Alberta manufacturer’s facility.
  • Retailers sell these products to consumers. AGLC pays the designated payee (manufacturer or agency) for their products after the product is sold to a licensee. AGLC also collects the provincial liquor markup as well as any federal liquor taxes and levies.

For more information, visit AGLC’s warehouse and distribution page.

Marketing and promotion policies

What are the rules for the marketing and promotion of liquor products in Alberta?

The marketing and promotion of liquor products sold in Alberta must not encourage the irresponsible use, consumption or service of liquor.

For more information, refer to the “Advertising” section of the AGLC handbook (AGLC handbooks provide licensees with policies and guidelines related to their licence).

Licensing requirements

Do I need a liquor licence to sell liquor in Alberta?

Yes, to sell or supply liquor in Alberta, you must have a liquor licence. Types of licences:

  • Class A consists of two types of licences:
    • for the sale and consumption of liquor, where food is the primary source of business and minors are permitted.
    • for the sale and consumption of liquor, where liquor is the primary source of business and minors are prohibited.
  • Class B – for the sale and consumption of liquor in locations where people pay an entrance or user fee or buy a ticket, such as a recreational facility, tourist facility, race track, sports stadium, convention centre, theatre, or certain types of transportation.
  • Class C – for the sale and consumption of liquor within a facility that is not open to the public but is primarily for use of members, such as a clubhouse.
  • Class D – for the sale of liquor that will be consumed off-site, such as a retail liquor store or off-sales.
  • Class E – for manufacturers that have a permanent facility, such as distillers, vintners or brewers.
  • Class F – For production of beer, wine, and cider at a ferment-on-premises facility.
  • Public special event licences – for one-time events open to the public, for either community or commercial purposes, such as a beer garden, theatre event, or food and wine fair.
  • Private special event licences – for events open to members and invited guests only, such as weddings or awards banquets. This includes annual licences for organizations having recurring events, such as scheduled meetings.
  • Industrial use – for the storage and use of beer, wine and spirits in food preparation.
  • Competition – for tasting and judging homemade products.
  • Hospitality – for liquor service in a room within a liquor agency or liquor manufacturer to provide free tasting to clients.
  • Duty Free – for the sale of liquor to consumers taking the liquor out of Canada.

For more information, visit AGLC’s liquor licences page.

How do I obtain a liquor licence?

To obtain a liquor licence, submit a completed application to AGLC, along with the application fee and supporting documents. For more information on the requirements for each type of licence and the steps to apply, visit AGLC’s applying for a liquor licence page.

Relevant legislation, regulations and policies

What rules apply to me?

All activities related to the sale, consumption, importation, manufacture, possession, storage and distribution/use of liquor in the Alberta must be undertaken in accordance with the Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis Act and the Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis Regulation and AGLC’s policies. AGLC handbooks provide licensees with policies and guidelines related to their licence.

For more information, visit AGLC’s liquor legislation and policies page.

General contact(s)

Whom can I contact for more information?

If you have any questions or would like more information, contact AGLC at [email protected].