Modern, flexible approaches to liquor licensing, and fairness in awarding a limited number of special licences to sell B.C. wine in grocery stores, are broad goals of two pieces of legislation introduced today supporting government’s response to the Liquor Policy Review.
If passed, Bill 22, the Special Wine Store Licence Auction Act, will allow the highest bidders access to a limited number of licences to sell B.C. wine off grocery store shelves - delivering on government’s commitment to enhance convenience for consumers. This new legislation will create the legal framework for a future auction and ensure fairness and transparency in awarding a limited number of these liquor licences. Of note, these are not newly created licences - they are dormant licences that B.C. will be looking to issue via an auction process. Information about the auction’s framework and the number of these licences will be available in the coming months.
Also introduced today was Bill 27, a re-write of the Liquor Control and Licensing Act (LCLA) - modernizing outdated provisions and providing enabling amendments to address various review recommendations.
If passed, the changes in this new act will allow for the creation of a new, broader class of special-event permits accessible to more event operators, businesses and groups working with or raising money for non-profit and charitable organizations. Event promoters will be able to apply on behalf of a licensee, and annual special occasion licences will also be created so that, for example, service organizations wishing to serve liquor with meals at their regularly scheduled meetings can do so without having to apply each time. This will cut red tape for real people and further the popularity of special occasion licences, about 25,000 of which are issued each year.
The proposed changes will also help streamline and expedite liquor licence applications for B.C. businesses, allowing Liquor Control and Licensing Branch staff and municipalities to manage applications concurrently. Government will also be able to set limits on how long a licensee may allow a liquor licence to remain dormant - helping to provide certainty for communities and neighbourhood residents.
To provide greater flexibility for small businesses, the proposed changes will give government the option to better impose penalties that are proportionate and meaningful when a licensee contravenes the act. In the interest of protecting public safety and keeping alcohol out of the hands of youth, government will also have the option to regulate home alcohol delivery.
Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton -
“The Liquor Control and Licensing Act as rewritten will further our efforts to make liquor licensing more efficient, seamless and fair, to expand convenience in ways that consumers, businesses and charitable organizations support - such as by streamlining the special occasion licence application process and opening it up to event promoters - and to prevent illegal access to and consumption of liquor.
“As well, the new auction legislation, if passed, will allow us to establish the auction process in the coming months and make the currently dormant licences available to retailers who want to specifically pursue wine-on-shelves in grocery stores. This will mean British Columbians will have an easier time picking up their favourite bottle of B.C. wine to go along with their groceries for dinner.”
- The proposed new LCLA is enabling legislation. If it passes, additional consultations will take place with licensees, local government and police toward the development of regulations that will bring the act into force.
- The proposed licence auction is a distinct process from the lottery announced in February, which relates to moving existing liquor store licences.
- Currently, B.C. has approximately 1,100 liquor stores in all categories.
- As of April 1 - the first day that grocery stores are allowed to sell liquor through the store-within-a-store model and wine-on-shelves model - government will have implemented, or be in the process of implementing, 29 recommendations from the Liquor Policy Review report.
First-reading versions of Bill 27, the Liquor Control and Licensing Act, and Bill 22, the Special Wine Store Licence Auction Act, are posted at: https://www.leg.bc.ca/parliamentary-business/legislation-debates-proceedings/40th-parliament/4th-session/bills/first-reading
The B.C. Liquor Policy Review final report: http://ow.ly/EOx3x