Premier Christy Clark announced the B.C. government's support today for a second set of key liquor changes that will create opportunities for small businesses and legions and open up new dining options for B.C. families, while continuing to protect public safety.
To create more consumer convenience and give businesses more flexibility to grow, government will be introducing happy hour to B.C. To make sure liquor rules better reflect how British Columbians live, families soon will have the freedom to eat together in B.C.'s pubs, legions and restaurants. To enhance health and public safety, the Province also will improve and expand B.C.'s responsible beverage service program, Serving it Right (SIR).
"These changes are about updating antiquated licensing rules to reflect what British Columbians actually want, while continuing to protect public safety," said Premier Clark. "Families should be able to dine together in their neighbourhood pub. Consumers should be free to order whatever they want in a restaurant. These are exactly the kind of common-sense changes to B.C.'s liquor laws we promised to make - and we're keeping that promise."
Specifically, with the Liquor Policy Review recommendations announced today, government is supporting:
- Small businesses and the hospitality industry, through changes like common-sense licensing and happy hours.
- Places like pubs, legions and membership clubs by making changes to create more family-friendly environments.
- Health, safety and social responsibility by enhancing B.C.'s SIR program.
With minimum drink pricing consistent with the views that Parliamentary Secretary John Yap heard from health advocates during the B.C. Liquor Policy Review, the B.C. government will be opening the door to time-limited drink specials - such as happy hours.
Other changes that will benefit the hospitality industry include simplified, common-sense licensing rules. If patrons do not wish to eat, they will no longer be required to order food when they are in a food-primary establishment. Also, customers will be permitted to move freely with their beverage from one adjoining licensed area to another.
"At Cactus Club Cafe, we know how important it is to provide an enjoyable and safe environment for all of our guests," said Richard Jaffray, president and founder of Cactus Restaurants Ltd. "We applaud Premier Christy Clark and the B.C. government for taking positive steps to modernize our province's liquor laws and regulations."
The B.C. government will further increase flexibility around licensing by giving liquor-primary establishments and clubs, such as legions, the option to accommodate minors up until a certain hour in the evening. This means, for example, that parents will be able to take their kids for a bite to eat at a pub or to enjoy some music at a legion that chooses to be family friendly.
"We're thrilled to hear government is making positive changes in liquor regulations impacting The Royal Canadian Legion and other membership clubs, so we can hold gatherings that safely accommodate minors, like community events, anniversaries and birthday parties," said Angus Stanfield, president of the Royal Canadian Legion BC/Yukon Command. "These changes will help us strengthen our charitable giving for veterans, youth, seniors and the communities we serve."
Balancing these changes with health and safety in mind, the Province will extend SIR to all hospitality industry workers who serve alcohol. This will include, for the first time, all servers in B.C.'s 5,600 licensed restaurants, as well as staff at BC Liquor Stores and rural agency and wine stores. A specialized version of SIR will be required for licensees and personnel who serve at special occasion licensed events, such as banquets or weddings.
"We welcome the opportunity to evaluate, expand and enhance our Serving it Right program so we can build on our comprehensive information and provide well-rounded knowledge about responsible beverage service," said Arlene Keis, CEO of go2, B.C.'s human resources association for the tourism industry. "Drawing on the success of our current program, these changes will further instil effective skills and techniques for hospitality workers to promote responsible consumption."
These changes align with recommendations put forward in Yap's report. Government's support for these eight recommendations builds on a set of 12 others announced last week by Premier Clark that will benefit tourism, small businesses and liquor manufacturers.
"I heard throughout my consultations - from pubs, restaurants, legions and British Columbians - that licensing rules have become complicated and onerous over the years, and that they need to better match modern expectations," said Yap. "These changes will address that call and strike a balance, as we increase convenience for families and the industry, ensure continued growth of B.C. businesses and continue to safeguard health and safety."
It is anticipated that Yap's report on the review will be publicly released prior to Feb. 15, 2014, once Cabinet has had the opportunity to fully consider its 70-plus recommendations.
- The production, distribution and sale of B.C. liquors have significant economic benefits for the Province, contributing more than $1.1 billion annually.
- Currently in B.C., there are:
- More than 2,300 liquor-primary licences in B.C. - where the business's primary purpose is liquor service, entertainment or hospitality.
- More than 5,600 food-primary licences in B.C. - where the business must be focused on food service at all hours, even during hours when liquor may be sold.
- B.C.'s tourism revenues are valued at more than $13.4 billion per year, with more than 126,000 people working in the industry.
While the comments are now closed, the B.C. Liquor Policy Review website site will remain active so British Columbians can continue to review the blog and its comments, Liquor 101 content and stakeholder submissions: http://engage.gov.bc.ca/liquorpolicyreview/
Read about the B.C. government's support for 12 recommendations related to tourism, liquor manufacturers and farmers' markets: http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/2013/12/liquor-changes-plant-seed-for-tourism-economic-growth.html
Read about the recommendation that government develop a model to allow liquor in grocery stores: http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/2013/11/grocery-store-liquor-sales-recommended-for-bc.html
Cactus Club Café: http://www.cactusclubcafe.com/
BC/Yukon Command of the Royal Canadian Legion: http://www.legionbcyukon.ca/
go2, B.C.'s tourism industry human resources association and administrator of Serving it Right: https://www.go2hr.ca/
A backgrounder follows.
Office of the Premier
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Justice
Liquor Policy Review recommendations supported
The B.C. government is today supporting an additional eight recommendations from Parliamentary Secretary John Yap's Liquor Policy Review final report. They are:
Serving it Right (SIR), the provincial government's responsible beverage service program, should be expanded and enhanced:
- Sales and service staff in restaurants, wine stores, rural agency stores and BC Liquor Stores who are not already required to have SIR certification should now be required to obtain it. Licensees, managers, and sales and serving staff should also be required to recertify.
- A focused, abridged and less expensive version of SIR should be developed for people who receive Special Occasion Licences (SOLs) or who serve at these events. This will help ensure they understand their responsibilities around responsible handling of liquor.
- SIR content should be updated to include information about:
- Canada's low-risk drinking guidelines.
- the social and health costs of alcohol.
- why alcohol is regulated.
- SIR should continue to ask recent graduates to evaluate the program, with the aim of developing and introducing improvements.
The fee structure of SIR should be reviewed by the provider and government to ensure the cost to retailers and establishments is not onerous. Additionally, consideration should be given to the application of fee revenue to SIR program enhancements.
Permit licensees to offer time-limited drink specials (e.g., happy hours), provided the price is not below a prescribed minimum consistent with those advocated by health advocates.
Minors, if accompanied by a parent or guardian, should be permitted in certain liquor-primary establishments.
- Government should establish a reasonable time (e.g., until 9 p.m.) that respects both the family's choice to include minors in some events and the establishment's responsibility to ensure an appropriate environment for all.
- Licensees should continue to have the option of an adult-only establishment.
- For those establishments that currently offer gaming options, LCLB should have the authority to approve or deny whether minors are to be allowed based on a minor's potential access to gaming. Minors should not be permitted in casinos or community gaming centres. As well, minors should not be allowed into establishments that offer adult entertainment.
The LCLB should clarify and modernize regulations with respect to food-primary operations, including lounge and kitchen requirements.
Food-primary licensees should continue to focus on food service, with a full menu available whenever liquor service is available. However, patrons should not be obligated to - or made to feel like they must - order food if they do not wish to eat.
Food-primary enterprises that wish to fully transition away from food service after a certain hour (e.g., 9 p.m.) - if, for example, they wanted to operate as a nightclub - will be able to apply for a licence endorsement, allowing them to operate like a liquor-primary licence during those hours only.
- Minors would not be allowed in the establishment after that time.
- To reflect the approach taken on liquor-primary licences, local government and residents should be consulted as part of the approval process.
Permit patrons to carry liquor between adjoining licensed establishments (e.g., from the pub to the adjoining restaurant).
Office of the Premier
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Justice