Changes to liquor laws on the horizon

Christine Wood/Staff Writer / Staff writer
January 11, 2014 01:00 AM

Government will consider changes to B.C.'s liquor laws in 2014.

It looks like there will be some major changes to liquor laws in B.C. this year with 70-plus recommendations that could all be enacted by the provincial government once a report is made public in February.

The report and its recommendations were put together by parliamentary secretary John Yap as part of the B.C. Liquor Policy Review, which government launched in August 2013.

Yap submitted his report in November, after a two-month public comment period ended.

While all of Yap's recommendations have not yet been made public, the government has chosen to publicly endorse two sets of "key liquor changes," which they announced in separate press releases recently.

Those changes include increased flexibility around licensing that would allow manufacturers to sell their "made in B.C. liquor" at places like farmers' markets, festivals and off-site tasting rooms; increased promotion of B.C.-made alcoholic products and producers; a more streamlined application process to obtain liquor licences; the introduction of "happy hour" to B.C.; and the ability to allow minors to enter drinking establishments "until a certain hour in the evening."

While all of Yap's recommendations will have to be voted on before they become law, local pub owners are following government's endorsements closely and waiting to see what the proposed changes will entail.

"We don't know what's coming down the pipe and there's a lot of apprehension certainly about the liquor store business, about private liquor stores, if they undermine those. But I don't think they're going to, by the sounds of it," said Ron Davis, owner of the Lighthouse Pub and the Lighthouse Liquor Store.

The possibility of allowing minors into liquor primary establishments during the day could prove beneficial for the Lighthouse Pub, Davis noted.

"It would be good for business and it would be good for families to be able to do that. It gives them more freedom," Davis said. "But certainly at night time we'd prefer to have it as more of an adult-orientated environment."

The ability to offer drink specials during "happy hour" each day is also something Davis sees as good for business.

"It's definitely a perk that people enjoy when they go anywhere but B.C.," Davis said. "I think all in all it's going to be very good for the industry and very good for the public as well."

Legion branches across B.C. have already announced their pleasure with the changes the provincial government has endorsed so far, saying in a press release they were "thrilled."

"Legions across the province give back so much to our communities for veterans, youth and seniors. Being able to have anyone of any age involved in these activities at our branches is a huge step forward," said Angus Stanfield, BC/Yukon Command president, in a press release.

Sechelt Legion Branch No. 140 president Irma Mahar said the ability to have families visit the Legion together could prove to be beneficial for the youth who come. "Then they could see some of the memorabilia that we have here and they could talk about what it means," she noted.

It's anticipated that Yap's report and his recommendations for changes to B.C.'s liquor laws will be publicly released before Feb. 15, "once Cabinet has had the opportunity to fully consider its 70-plus recommendations," a press release from the province stated.

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