B.C. to abolish beer gardens, festival barriers

Dec 19 2017, 9:32 am

Festival goers and sports enthusiasts, as well as the hotel industry and its patrons, will benefit from a third set of recommendations highlighted today from the now released final report on the B.C. Liquor Policy Review.

In addition, government has announced its full support for all 73 recommendations in the report. A number of these recommendations require significant policy work and implementation planning, which will be done over the coming months.

The recommendations highlighted today will streamline the application process for special occasion licences (SOLs) and refresh outdated liquor policies around beer garden fencing, opening up new opportunities for B.C.’s multitude of festivals, special events and non-profit organizations. Sports and entertainment venues, as well as the hotel industry, will also see positive changes as the Province continues to modernize rules around liquor licensing.

“We promised British Columbians we would overhaul B.C.’s outdated liquor laws – and we are keeping that promise,” said Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton. “As we release the final report today, you’ll see 73 wide-ranging reforms that will positively affect organizations – from local community festivals to music concerts, from hockey games to hotels – in communities all across B.C.”

Specifically, with the set of Liquor Policy Review recommendations announced today, the B.C. government is supporting:

  • Community festivals and entertainment events, by eliminating beer garden fencing, simplifying the SOL process and moving applications online.
  • Consumers, by allowing the sale of mixed-spirit drinks at public SOL events and enabling hosts to serve UBrew/UVin at events, such as weddings.
  • Stadiums and arenas throughout the province, by increasing flexibility around licensing, and permitting spirit-based liquor sales in the stands.
  • The hotel industry and its patrons, by making licensing changes that will extend room service hours and allow guests to move more freely with alcoholic beverages.

“These recommendations are a direct reflection of the input I received from British Columbians, festival organizers, non-profit organizations and businesses – both small and large – during the Liquor Policy Review,” said John Yap, Parliamentary Secretary for Liquor Policy Reform. Government’s support for these recommendations will help transform B.C.’s outdated liquor laws in a host of different ways – enhancing convenience, sparking the economy and creating new opportunities for businesses and non-profits.”

Once legislative changes are made, festival goers will be able to roam the grounds with a pint, rather than being restricted to a cordoned-off beer garden. This will help decrease costs for festival organizers and allow parents with kids to enjoy a beer and remain with their family, as they might at a hockey game. In addition, mixed spirit drinks – rather than only beer, wine, cider and cooler products – will also be permitted at events like music festivals and regattas, with continued restriction of sales to minors.

“Opening up music festivals to whole-site licensing over the ‘beer garden’ model is a very positive move, “said Bob D’Eith, executive director of Music BC. “This will allow families to stay together at events, reduce costs for festival organizers and make the festival experience that much better for all fans of live music. We are optimistic that this and other positive changes announced today will help to keep B.C. venues and festivals going strong for years to come.”

The recommendations announced today will also affect stadiums and arenas throughout the province. Currently, B.C.’s stadiums and arenas are permitted to serve beer and wine to those in the general seating area, and spirits to those in private boxes or premium seats. Once these changes are made in law, these facilities will be able to serve spirits, such as rum, vodka or gin, to all patrons, no matter where they are seated.

“The Province of B.C.’s recommendations are good news for our fans because they allow us to offer more beverage options, and more flexibility in where we serve them, and they will help our efforts to reduce lineups and congestion at Rogers Arena events,” said Victor de Bonis, chief operating officer for Canucks Sports & Entertainment. “It’s a positive outcome for our organization, our guests and entertainment venues across the province.”

The hotel industry will also benefit from these changes. Visitors will soon be able to carry alcoholic beverages – such as a glass of wine from the lobby or hotel bar – to their room. The B.C. government will also extend the hours that patrons can receive liquor through room service, enabling further growth opportunities for the industry and enhancing guests’ experiences.

“Both staff and patrons will happily welcome the increased flexibility these changes bring to B.C.’s hotel industry,” said Ingrid Jarrett, president of the BC Hotel Association. “Allowing guests to purchase a glass of wine or champagne at the bar and bring it up to their room mirrors a practice that is commonly found at many resorts and hotels around the world and will further B.C.’s competitive advantage.”

In addition to the recommendations announced today – and in the Liquor Policy Review’s spirit of transparency – the full report is now available online and can be viewed at:http://engage.gov.bc.ca/liquorpolicyreview/

The goal of the Liquor Policy Review is to transform B.C.’s outdated liquor laws by enhancing convenience, sparking the economy, creating new opportunities for businesses and continuing to protect health and public safety.

Liquor Policy Review recommendations supported

The B.C. government is today supporting an additional 16 recommendations from Parliamentary Secretary John Yap’s Liquor Policy Review final report. They include:

Special Occasion Licences (SOLs):

Application process

  • Introduce online applications to simplify the process.
  • Government should create an annual SOL for organizations that hold occasional meetings or activities throughout the year. Licence holders could store unconsumed liquor for future events. The licence holder would be required to ensure the safe transport and storage of unconsumed liquor product.
  • Event organizers should be able to apply for a single SOL that covers multiple events held over several days at several locations.

Role of police and local governments/First Nations

  • Consult with police and local governments and First Nations to find ways to streamline their roles in approving small-capacity, time-limited events (e.g., family weddings) that have little or no public safety risks for their communities.
  • Police should continue to be informed of all upcoming SOL events in their communities.

Licensing eligibility

  • Remove the regulation that requires non-profit organizations to apply for an SOL for concerts and events. This will allow promoters who actually manage the event to be responsible to meet all requirements of the liquor licence.
  • Permit businesses to obtain SOLs to raise funds for charity.
  • Permit hobby brewers and vintners to apply for an SOL to host competition events, allowing homemade beers and wines to be sampled by both judges and the public.

Licensing terms and conditions

  • Except where it is not suitable from a public safety perspective, permit whole-site licensing for public events, eliminating “beer gardens”.
  • Allow the sale of mixed-spirit drinks at public SOL events.
  • Allow hosts to serve UBrew/UVin or homemade beer or wine at SOL events (e.g., weddings, family reunions).

Arenas, Stadiums and Theatres:

  • The provincial government should introduce a new licence class and streamlined application process for facilities (e.g., stadiums, arenas and theatres) that charge a fee for an event (e.g., a sporting event or play). Minors should be permitted to stay until the event ends.
  • There should be more drink choices (e.g., mixed spirits) for consumers, as in all other types of licensed establishments.
  • Liquor sales in arenas and stadiums should be permitted in all public areas. As part of this, stadiums should have increased flexibility to provide hawking services to patrons in both the seated and concourse areas, and throughout the scheduled event.


  • Allow hotel and resort patrons to carry liquor throughout designated areas of the hotel (e.g., carrying a glass of wine presented at check-in to the hotel room).
  • Extend the hours that patrons can receive liquor through room service.

Source: Government of BC | Image: Pouring alcohol bartender via Shutterstock

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