12 changes to the B.C. Liquor Act

Dec 19 2017, 9:07 am

At a family-run estate winery in the vineyard-lined Okanagan Valley, Premier Christy Clark announced the B.C. government’s support for a set of 12 key liquor recommendations that will expand consumers’ choices, open up new development opportunities for B.C. businesses, promote local products and cut red tape.

Manufacturers and consumers – tourists and locals alike – will benefit, as B.C. provides increased flexibility around licensing. Manufacturers will be able to sample and sell their made-in-B.C. liquor at venues such as farmers’ markets, festivals and off-site tasting rooms.

“We promised to bring British Columbia’s liquor laws into the 21st century – to give consumers more choice, give B.C. businesses more opportunities to grow, while ensuring health and safety,” said Premier Clark. “These changes are a step towards that.”

Specifically, with the Liquor Policy Review recommendations announced today, government is supporting:

  • Local manufacturers by cutting red tape on licensing.
  • The promotion of B.C. products and producers, both in-store and by exploring the potential for a quality assurance program for craft breweries and distilleries.
  • The growth of the wine, craft brewery and craft distillery industries by allowing the sale of products at locations like farmers’ markets and secondary tasting rooms.

“Offering out-of-town visitors as well as regular market shoppers the option to taste-test and purchase locally made wines, ciders and craft beer, while they shop for local fruits and vegetables will ensure support for a vibrant farming sector in B.C.,” said Jon Bell, president of the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets. “It’s also a great way for small local businesses that use B.C. grown farm products in alcoholic beverages to reach new customers, while providing increased selection and convenience.”

B.C. will streamline licensing requirements for manufacturers so they can more easily expand their on-site tasting venues to include, for example, picnic tasting areas in a vineyard. The recommendations also include allowing manufacturers the ability to offer patrons liquor that is not produced on-site, providing greater selection for consumers and new revenue streams for manufacturers.

“We’re thrilled to see the B.C. government further recognizing the value that our wineries bring to the province – whether it’s money spent by British Columbians who want to support local community businesses or tourism dollars brought to B.C.,” said Miles Prodan, president and CEO of the BC Wine Institute. “These recommendations will allow us to make improvements in our services that will make a big difference to our visitors, such as serving beer or a gin and tonic to non-wine-drinking patrons and making it simpler for a manufacturer to create a picnic tasting area so our visitors can take full advantage of a sunny day while wine touring in the province.”

To further promote the many advantages of buying local, the B.C. government and Liquor Distribution Branch will move forward on recommendations to enhance marketing, promotion, education and product placement of made-in-B.C. products – both in and-out-of-province. In collaboration with industry and tourism associations, the Province will also develop new tools, such as smart-phone apps, maps and brochures on B.C.’s wealth of wineries, breweries and distilleries.

“These recommendations are about advancing B.C. products, building strong opportunities for the small business sector and offering even more compelling reasons to visit and explore British Columbia,” said John Yap, Parliamentary Secretary for Liquor Policy Reform. “I’m encouraged that the B.C. government is pledging to move forward on these changes, which align with many of the thoughtful suggestions I received throughout my consultations.”

In recognition of the newly flourishing market, the B.C. government will also explore the idea of establishing a quality assurance program, similar to the popular VQA wine program, for B.C. craft beer and artisan-distilled spirits, such as winter ales, cucumber-infused gin or B.C.-fruit brandy.

To further cut red tape, government will create a more streamlined application process for facilities such as ski hills and golf courses so they can temporarily extend their liquor licensed area to another part of the property, such as a patio or a barbeque area.

“Today’s B.C. government is helping all of us in tourism tap further into our year-round potential the Thompson Okanagan has to offer,” said Michael J. Ballingall, board chair of Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association and senior VP at Big White Ski Resort. “Whether it’s enjoying après ski in the mountains, sipping a cold beer at one of our championship golf courses or tasting wine at one of our more than 200 valley wineries – these changes reflect modern marketplace realities and will help us all attract even more visitors to the Thompson Okanagan, and to British Columbia as a whole.”

The B.C. government’s support for these recommendations follows on the heels of the now-completed B.C. Liquor Policy Review. It is anticipated that the full report will be publicly released in the new year, once Cabinet has had the opportunity to fully consider its 70-plus recommendations.

The ultimate goal of the Liquor Policy Review is to modernize B.C.’s liquor laws, enhance consumer convenience and grow B.C.’s economy, while continuing to protect health and public safety.

B.C. currently has 269 wineries, 76 breweries and 27 distilleries.

B.C.’s liquor industry, a leading contributor to tourism, is worth $2 billion in economic impact, according to the BC Wine Institute, and every bottle of wine produced in B.C. is worth $42 in economic impact. B.C.’s wine industry alone brings in more than $298 million in federal and provincial taxes and Liquor Distribution Branch mark-up.