Cheers to this news: New BC Liquor laws in effect

Jan 23 2017, 5:03 pm

It’s a big day for businesses and imbibers in British Columbia, as a series of long-championed and long-awaited liquor laws go into effect.

Under the auspices of reducing “red tape,” the BC gov took the 73 recommendations from the Liquor Policy Review and put legislation into motion accordingly in order to “update antiquated laws” (their very apt words).

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And now, today, January 23, these new laws are in effect.

Among those toasting to more room for sensible business practices include golfers who would like to walk with their drink from one service area to another, salons who would like to add on champagne service for their clients, hotels wanting to give guests a free tipple when they check in, and bartenders who want to elevate their mixing game by infusing their spirits…among many others.

Here’s the full list of opportunities now available, straight from the Ministry of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction and Responsible for the Liquor Distribution Branch:

  • 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.

Negroni at Bar Oso in Whistler (Lindsay William-Ross/Daily Hive)

All of these policy changes are happening alongside other moves within the industry that are seeing other improvements like an effort to create a new interprovincial trade agreement for BC wines to be sold in Ontario and Quebec; happy hours; alcohol available for sale at farmers’ markets; wine in select BC grocery stores; the end of the “beer garden” era thanks to overall event licencing; minors permitted in pubs; customers being able to order a drink and not order food; and many, many more.

You can study up on the full set of Liquor Policy Review recommendations here. Bust a few facts out and be a hit at your next party (or at the salon or golf course).

As of today, now nearly 90% of the 73 recommendations are on the books and our new reality in BC.

“We’ve come a long way since we first began the process of updating B.C.’s antiquated liquor laws,”says Coralee Oakes, Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction and Minister Responsible for the Liquor Distribution Branch in a media release.

“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,”

Lindsay William-RossLindsay William-Ross

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