Jurisdictional Overview

About liquor in Nova Scotia

In Nova Scotia, the production, sale, transport and use of beverage alcohol is governed by the Liquor Control Act (LCA). The Minister of Finance and Treasury Board is the Minister responsible for the LCA. The LCA designates the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC) as the provincial liquor authority and mandates the responsibilities of the NSLC to its shareholder, the Province of Nova Scotia. The NSLC is the primary monopoly wholesaler and retailer of beverage alcohol. 

The LCA provides the authority to regulate the manufacturing, sale and service of alcohol in the province. As the designated provincial liquor authority, the NSLC is responsible for regulating local manufacturers and retail outlets. Nova Scotia is currently home to approximately 30 wineries, 93 breweries, and 25 distilleries.* 

The LCA designates the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Internal Services as responsible for some sections of the Act related to the regulation and oversight of establishments (such as bars and restaurants), festivals and special occasions where alcohol is served.

For more information about the NSLC, visit www.mynslc.com 

*Statistics quoted are as of December 18, 2019.

Listing process

How do I introduce new products into Nova Scotia?

Most new product must be listed through the NSLC to be sold in the province.  Exceptions are primarily related to locally produced product sold on-premise or directly to a licensee from a local producer.

Information on product listings may be found in the NSLC’s Vendor Guide.  Please visit their Trade MyNSLC website and review the latest Customer Strategy Marketing and Promotions Guide posted under the “Program Information and Applications” section.

Do I need a registered liquor agent to represent me?

Yes, in order to do business with the NSLC, companies must obtain an NSLC Agency Permit and a NSLC Registered Representative permit.  A Registered Representative is an employee of a manufacturer, distributor, or agency who is registered by the NSLC.

Please visit NSLC’s permits page for more information.

Labelling and packaging requirements

What are the labelling and packaging requirements in Nova Scotia?

In general, packaging and labelling requirements are governed by Federal and Provincial legislation; however, the NSLC has some specific requirements, primarily related to their Advertising Rules of Conduct.  Details can be found in the NSLC Marketing and Promotions Guide. For more information please visit the Trade MyNSLC website and review the latest Customer Strategy Marketing and Promotions Guide posted under the “Program Information and Applications” section. 

Laboratory testing requirements

What are the laboratory testing requirements in Nova Scotia?

As part of the product listing process with the NSLC, vendors will be asked if a Certificate of Analysis is available for the applicable product.  The Customer Strategy team will follow up with the applicable vendor as required depending on whether a certificate is available.

Pricing components

What components make up the price of liquor in Nova Scotia?

Pricing is a complex issue with considerations given to product category, size of container and alcohol by volume content. The NSLC uses a price band system which establishes a maximum and minimum price for three types of listings across categories; economy (lowest entry price point for any country), mainstream (bulk of NSLC business) and premium. The NSLC has a social reference pricing policy that sets a minimum price per category of beverage alcohol in order to minimize social harm associated with overconsumption.

Defined markup structures are in place to establish the retail selling price, based on the duty paid landed cost of product. The NSLC markup is an ad valorem charge that differs based on the type of alcoholic beverage and the product’s alcohol by volume content. In addition to the markup, a cost of service charge is applied to imported products to cover additional handling expenses. HST, and a bottle deposit fee are also applied to each product.

Sales channels and distribution

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

The NSLC is the primary retailer of beverage alcohol. The NSLC’s retail network includes NSLC-corporate stores as well as independently operated NSLC agency stores. Additionally, there are four private wine and specialty stores and several on-site retail stores operated by local producers.

The NSLC operates a central distribution centre to service the retail, agency, licensee and private wine and speciality store channels.  NSLC’s Beer Distribution Policy outlines the criteria within which high volume brewers may self-distribute to the NSLC retail network. The policy can be found on the NSLC’s Manufacturers’ Policies page. Follow the link under “Beer Trade Distribution Policy”.

Licensees may also be supplied directly by one of the private wine and specialty stores or a local producer.

Marketing and promotion policies

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

Provincial regulations address specific topics as they pertain to advertising.  Please refer to the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation Regulations and review the requirements under the “Advertising” sections (sections 2 to 12).

Additionally, advertising guidelines have been established by the NSLC.  Please visit the Trade MyNSLC website and follow the link for NSLC Advertising Guidelines, under the “Working with the NSLC and Policies” drop down list.  The Rules of Conduct outline the applicable federal and provincial legislation, along with general guiding principles, rules on where advertisements may be placed, responsible content, and use of NSLC Corporate Assets.  

Licensing requirements

Do I need a liquor licence to sell liquor in Nova Scotia?

Yes, to sell or supply liquor in Nova Scotia, you must have a liquor licence or permit. The NSLC is responsible for beverage alcohol permits for local manufacturers, manufacturing companies and other general permits. For more information about these types of permits, visit NSLC’s permits page.

The Alcohol, Gaming, Fuel and Tobacco (AGFT) division of Service Nova Scotia and Internal Services is responsible for issuing licenses and regulation of establishments (such as bars and restaurants), festivals and special occasions where alcohol is served. For more information about these types of licenses, visit AGFT’s licensing 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 Nova Scotia must be undertaken in accordance with the Liquor Control Act, the regulations under that Act (Ferment-on-Premises Regulations, Importing Wine for Personal Use Regulations, Liquor Licensing Regulations, Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation Regulations, and Public Education About Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Regulations) as well as NSLC policies.

General contact

Who can I contact for more information?

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