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BC’s New Liquor Laws Start Monday January 23

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Victoria – An updated Liquor Control and Licencing Act and regulation come into force tomorrow, January 23, that will create new opportunities for businesses, increase convenience for consumers and enhance the Province’s commitment to social responsibility.

Legislative Changes

The Liquor Policy Review made 73 recommendations to update antiquated laws for British Columbians and reduce red tape. Several of the recommendations required new laws or regulations to be implemented. The new act and regulation increase flexibility for businesses and spur economic growth by allowing:

  • all types of businesses, like barbershops, salons, book stores and art galleries, to apply for a liquor licence, giving them opportunities to generate new revenue;
  • businesses to apply for a Special Event Permit, formerly a Special Occasion Licence, to reduce red tape involved in organizing events and festivals;
  • hotels and resorts that own a bar on the premises to offer guests a complimentary alcoholic beverage upon check-in and permit guests to carry their drinks from licenced areas directly to their rooms;
  • restaurants and bars to create unique cocktails through liquor infusions and barrel-aging, keeping up with a strong ‘cocktail culture’ that has emerged in Europe, the United States and across Canada;
  • applicants to receive more timely decisions on their licence applications due to local governments and the Province being able to review liquor licence applications at the same time;
  • theatres to permit customers to consume liquor purchased on-site in both the lobby and licensed seating areas when minors are present, similar to arenas and stadiums;
  • restaurants to apply to operate as a bar or nightclub after a certain hour;
  • bars to apply for a restaurant licence to operate as a restaurant during certain hours;
  • licensed facilities to use space for non-alcohol-related purposes while liquor is not being served;
  • golf course patrons to take a drink from one service area to another;
  • private liquor stores to sell different keg sizes;
  • caterers to store liquor off-site similar to other licensees and advertise liquor;
  • non-licensees to mention liquor in advertising, as long as they aren’t promoting it, permitting the development of promotional materials, such as maps, apps and brochures to promote B.C.’s wineries, distilleries and breweries;
  • manufacturers to offer patrons liquor other than what is produced on-site and offer a guided tour of their establishment without having to apply for permission to do so; and
  • licensees to request that government reconsider an enforcement decision under certain circumstances to avoid a costly court hearing and choose between a monetary penalty or licence suspension for a first contravention.

With the new legislation and regulations coming into effect, nearly 90% of the Liquor Policy Review recommendations have now been implemented.

Enhanced Flexibility for B.C. Businesses

The new act and regulations support the Province’s ongoing work with liquor manufacturers, industry associations and businesses to reduce red tape, increase flexibility and provide new opportunities by:

  • creating a new graduated mark-up scale and new provisions to increase cash flow for craft brewers;
  • creating a new interprovincial trade agreement so vintners can list their wine with distributors in Quebec and Ontario;
  • allowing manufacturers to sell liquor at artisan and farmers’ markets;
  • allowing event organizers to apply online for a single Special Event Permit,  that covers multiple events over several days;
  • permitting full-service liquor stores to relocate throughout the province, provided they are not within one kilometre of an existing full-service liquor store;
  • allowing retailers to charge for liquor samples to recoup cost of sampling higher-end product;
  • implementing a new online application process to significantly simplify the process for licensing for special events;
  • permitting two manufactures or agents to provide samples in a liquor store at the same time;
  • allowing eateries to operate a licensed patio even if the establishment has no interior licensed areas; and
  • permitting licensees to store liquor in secure, off-site locations and transfer small amounts of liquor between different establishments.

Increased Convenience and Choice for Consumers

The modernized legislation builds on additional changes made to increase choice and convenience for British Columbians including:

  • purchasing 100% B.C. wine on grocery store shelves in 14 locations and growing;
  • allowing ‘happy hours’ by letting pubs and restaurants offer drink specials;
  • permitting patrons to carry liquor between adjoining licensed establishments;
  • allowing hotels and resorts to offer a cocktail through hotel room service 24/7;
  • eliminating ‘beer gardens’ by allowing the entire special event site to be licensed;
  • allowing the sale of mixed-spirit drinks at public licensed special events;
  • allowing hosts to serve UBrew/UVin or homemade beer at licensed family special events;
  • permitting arenas, theatres and stadiums to offer mixed-spirit drinks in all licensed spaces, not only in boxes or premium seats;
  • allowing restaurant customers to order a drink without requiring food to be purchased;
  • permitting minors in participating pubs when accompanied by a parent or guardian;
  • tasting a broader range of liquor products, including high-end products, before deciding whether to purchase, thanks to larger sample amounts per customer at tastings;
  • permitting the purchase of liquor at festivals or competitions; and
  • allowing home brewers and vintners to showcase their creations through hobby brewer and hobby vintner competitions.

Social Responsibility

The Province is committed to ensuring that liquor products are consumed responsibly and has implemented several new policies to promote health and safety related to alcohol. In fact, over one-quarter of the recommendations contained in the Liquor Policy Review focus on health, safety, and social responsibility:

  • all 10,200 licensees in B.C are required by law to display social responsibility materials in a prominent location;
  • everyone serving or selling liquor in B.C. is required to hold Serving It Right or Special Event Server certification to ensure they understand their legal responsibilities; and
  • minimum price regulations are in place for all licensed establishments and liquor retailers.

Additionally, every establishment in B.C. licensed to sell or serve alcohol is subject to full inspections from the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch to ensure they are in compliance with all public health and safety regulations. The Minors as Agents Program helps ensure people under 19 years old are not sold or served alcohol.

Coralee Oakes, Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction and Minister Responsible for the Liquor Distribution Branch –
“We’ve come a long way since we first began the process of updating B.C.’s antiquated liquor laws. Thanks to significant public interest and input from thousands of British Columbians, industry stakeholders, and public health and safety experts, we have created new opportunities for businesses, increased choice for British Columbians, and enhanced our commitment to public health and safety.”

John Yap, Parliamentary Secretary for Liquor Policy Review –

“B.C. wines are gaining international recognition, we are seeing more breweries and distilleries creating jobs across the province, consumers are no longer restricted by outdated regulations and we have enhanced our commitment to social responsibility. The participation of so many interested British Columbians provided clear direction for modernizing liquor laws, and has resulted in substantive reforms that are comprehensive, balanced and responsive to the many ideas we heard throughout the Liquor Policy Review.”

Ken Beattie, executive director, BC Craft Brewers Guild –

“The Liquor Policy Review and its recommendations have positively impacted the rapid expansion of the B.C. craft brewing community over the last three years. The changes removed barriers to growth that previously existed for our members and have encouraged and supported our provincial brewing culture. The implemented changes have resulted in unprecedented growth in terms of job creation, tourism and pride of place in over 50 communities throughout B.C. that are home to over 125 independently owned and operated breweries and brewpubs. Our membership looks forward to working collaboratively with the ministry to help shape policy as our industry continues to grow.”

Miles Proden, president and CEO of the BC Wine Institute –

“We applaud the B.C. government on undertaking the Liquor Policy Review and following through on modernizing the province’s liquor laws. The reforms put in place, such as the prudent roll-out of 100% B.C. wine sales in grocery stores and farmers markets, are providing convenience and choice to consumers. These measures also give B.C. farmers and wine producers increased opportunity for greater exposure to a broader consumer base.”

Poma Dhaliwal, president, Alliance of Beverage Licensees –

“B.C.’s updated liquor laws have increased choice and convenience for British Columbians and cut red tape for our licensees. As a result, liquor stores, restaurants, and pubs have been able to improve interactions with their customers and pursue new business opportunities throughout B.C.”

Ian Tostensen, president and CEO, British Columbia Restaurant and Food Services Association –

“The government has worked very hard to not only work with industry to make these changes that are contemporary, but reflect common sense and reduces the red tape burden. It is an incredibly complex task to change regulations, given stakeholder and legislative complexities, but this government is getting it done and we appreciate their focused efforts and positive impact this changes will have.”

Randy Wilson, president, BC Private Liquor Store Association –

“The BCPLSA welcomes the changes that the provincial government has initiated as it pertains to our liquor laws. They have made great progress taking an old and rather antiquated system and modernizing to how we truly live in B.C. We would like to thank not only the government but the staff at the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch for their forward and progressive outlook in bringing these changes to fruition.”

Graham Henderson, president and CEO of Music Canada –

“We applaud the ongoing efforts of the Government of British Columbia to develop a sustainable music industry in the province as part of the BC Music Strategy. Reduction of red tape for music festivals and concerts, coupled with investment in artists, studios, labels and industry through the BC Music Fund, is evidence of the government’s commitment to growing B.C.’s vibrant music sector.”

Quick Facts

  • Over the past five years, craft beer sales in B.C. have almost tripled. The B.C. craft beer industry has grown from 54 breweries in 2010 to 125 today, with up to 20 new breweries pending.
  • As of November 2016, 35 craft and 19 commercial distilleries were operating in B.C. The number of craft distilleries has grown considerably – from four in 2010 to 35 today.
  • Since 2001, the number of B.C. wineries has grown from around 70 to 345 today.

Learn More:

Read the full list of Liquor Policy Review recommendations:  www2.gov.bc.ca/local/haveyoursay/Docs/liquor_policy_review_report.pdf

For information about responsible alcohol use, including a blood alcohol calculator, low-risk drinking guidelines, and parenting resources: AlcoholSenseBC.ca

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