In 2013, the Province undertook the Liquor Policy Review, one of the largest public engagements in B.C.’s history focussed on bringing liquor laws into the 21st century.
Currently, 90% of the 73 Liquor Policy Review recommendations have been implemented.
The Province’s efforts to modernize liquor laws have been focussed on increasing consumer choice, creating new opportunities for businesses and enhancing public health and safety.
The Liquor Policy Review’s recommendations required changes to the Liquor Control and Licensing Act and regulations in order to increase choice and convenience for British Columbians, reduce red tape 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.
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.
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, more than 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.