B.C. liquor laws get overhauled

Economy Friday, February 8, 2013 10:35 AM

VANCOUVER - Minister Rich Coleman announced several changes today that will help support local breweries and distilleries, create new business opportunities, and revise current liquor laws in British Columbia.

Changes announced today include the following:

  • Brewers and distillers now can apply to have an on-site consumption area such as a lounge, tasting room or event area.
  • Small- and medium-sized liquor manufacturers will be allowed up to three common ownership and business relationships with licensed establishments located off their manufacturing site.
  • Rules around how liquor manufacturers can promote their products in bars and restaurants have been simplified by removing the requirement for a buy-sell agreement.
  • Distilled liquor products that consist of 100 per cent British Columbia agricultural raw materials and are distilled in B.C. by licensed distilleries are now eligible for mark-up exempt direct sales.
  • A honourary B.C. wine envoy will be named with a mandate to work to complement existing efforts to open up domestic markets for B.C. wines.
  • Wine stores will become licensees under the Liquor Control and Licensing Act.
  • The criteria on whether private liquor stores can relocate within one kilometre of an existing liquor store are now set out in regulation rather than policy.
  • All increases to liquor-primary capacity will now require local government input.
  • Allowing rural agency stores to purchase unlimited amounts of beer through their local government liquor store.


Minister Rich Coleman -

"These changes reflect the evolving nature of the liquor industry in British Columbia. As time passes, so does the need to re-evaluate our laws and find ways to ensure we're doing all we can to create an environment where liquor-related businesses can continue to succeed."

Mark James, Mark James Group, Owner, Red Truck Brewery -

"We welcome these changes that the provincial government has announced today. We have long-wanted the freedom to include our portfolio of B.C.-brewed, award-winning beer and premium spirits with those products of different suppliers in our liquor primary and food primary licensed establishments. We commend the government on this initiative and believe that, in concert with allowing breweries and distilleries to have onsite lounges or tasting rooms, the timing is perfect."

Minister of Agriculture Norm Letnick -

"These changes will encourage B.C. craft distilleries to use local grains and produce, will support B.C. farmers producing high-quality crops, and are the latest example of the B.C. government's efforts to create a business environment that attracts investment and rewards innovation. B.C. is internationally respected for our high-quality wines and beers, and is increasingly being looked at as a place of similar opportunity for craft distillers."

Anthony Frustagli, co-owner, Parallel 49 and St. Augustine's -

"We are elated by today's announcement. This is a huge step forward for B.C. craft brewers, vintners, distillers, restaurateurs and publicans. We applaud the government for updating an outdated and archaic law that was impeding progress not only for us but a number of businesses in the craft beer industry. We look forward to sharing the beers which we so carefully craft at Parallel 49 with our valued customers at St. Augustine's."

Quick facts:

Over the past year, the Province has made changes to modernize liquor laws in B.C. including:

Liquor in theatres -

  • Provides flexibility to live-event venues and revises liquor laws for movie theatres.

Corkage - bring your own bottle -

  • Provides opportunities for restaurant customers that want to bring their own wine into a licensed dining establishment.

Personal importation of liquor into B.C. -

  • Allows B.C. residents to bring back an unlimited amount of 100 per cent Canadian wine if it is for personal consumption and purchased from a recognized winery in another province, or choose to have it shipped from the winery directly to their home. Also allows B.C. residents returning from another Canadian province to bring back on-their-person up to nine litres of wine, three litres of spirits, and a combined total of 25.6 litres of beer, cider or coolers for personal consumption.

Licensing of Caterers -

  • Allows caterers to apply for a liquor licence to help them fully meet the food and beverage needs of their clients - this supports industry and strengthens tourism appeal.

A backgrounder follows.

Media Contact:

Sandra Steilo
Ministry of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas
250 952-0617


B.C. liquor laws get overhauled

Brewers and Distillers

Having on-site lounges or special event areas are another way that B.C.'s breweries and distilleries can promote their award-winning beer and premium spirits. These changes will support the growing craft brewing and distilling industry by allowing them more ways to showcase their products. This change takes effect March 1, 2013.

Tied House and Trade Practices

This change provides small and medium winery, distillery or brewery owners that also own an off-site restaurant or pub the freedom to serve their products in their establishments, which they were previously not allowed to do.

Moving forward, licensees that enter into an off-site tied-house agreement are required to carry a variety of products from different suppliers to avoid particular products being favoured.

All liquor manufacturers - breweries, wineries and distilleries - will now be eligible for on-site tied house agreements. Previously, only breweries and wineries were eligible.

In addition, licensees may now sponsor events, activities and organizations, in the same way that liquor manufacturers have traditionally been able to do.

These changes take effect March 1, 2013.

Craft Distilleries Policy Change

The Province listened to British Columbia's craft distillers to find ways to support their industry and this policy change will do just that by allowing mark up free direct sales. These changes will also help stimulate growth in the number of craft distilleries and associated employment.

The Province's goal is to help grow the made-in-B.C. craft distillery industry and the use of B.C. agricultural inputs will benefit our agricultural sector.

B.C. wine envoy

The government of British Columbia is also pleased to announce that Herb LeRoy will begin his role as the honourary B.C. wine envoy on March 1, 2013. LeRoy, who worked previously as the private secretary to the lieutenant-governor and executive director of the office of the lieutenant-governor, will work to complement existing efforts to open up domestic markets for B.C. wines. LeRoy will work inter-provincially to reduce barriers so that B.C. wine can be enjoyed by Canadians from sea to sea to sea.

Wine Store Licensing

Wine stores in B.C. were previously Liquor Distribution Branch agency appointments and are being transitioned to licensees under the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch. This change was made to help ensure all liquor retailers are being regulated by the same agency, which helps provide consistency, and means they are subject to the same rules and oversight.

Licensee Retail Store Relocation

Private liquor stores can only relocate within one kilometre of another private liquor store under exceptional circumstances. These circumstances now are set out in regulation rather than by policy. This change provides greater certainty for licensees and responds to an earlier Supreme Court decision to clarify government's intent.

Capacity Increase Oversight

Bars and nightclubs that want to increase their person capacity to match the buildings occupant load must now obtain local government input. This local government input is important to ensure the best interests of the surrounding community are considered.

Rural Agency Stores

Government has an ongoing commitment to help rural agency stores succeed, so along with allowing rural agency stores to purchase unlimited amounts of beer through their local government liquor store, rural agency stores will now have access to government liquor store bags, "Taste" magazines and other promotional items. These changes were made following consultations with the Rural Agency Store Advisory Society on ways government could support rural agency stores remain successful moving forward.

Media Contact:

Sandra Steilo
Ministry of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas
250 952-0617

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