WEST KELOWNA - At a family-run estate winery in the vineyard-lined Okanagan Valley, Premier Christy Clark announced the B.C. government's support for a set of 12 key liquor recommendations that will expand consumers' choices, open up new development opportunities for B.C. businesses, promote local products and cut red tape.
Manufacturers and consumers - tourists and locals alike - will benefit, as B.C. provides increased flexibility around licensing. Manufacturers will be able to sample and sell their made-in-B.C. liquor at venues such as farmers' markets, festivals and off-site tasting rooms.
"We promised to bring British Columbia's liquor laws into the 21st century - to give consumers more choice, give B.C. businesses more opportunities to grow, while ensuring health and safety," said Premier Clark. "These changes are a step towards that."
Specifically, with the Liquor Policy Review recommendations announced today, government is supporting:
- Local manufacturers by cutting red tape on licensing.
- The promotion of B.C. products and producers, both in-store and by exploring the potential for a quality assurance program for craft breweries and distilleries.
- The growth of the wine, craft brewery and craft distillery industries by allowing the sale of products at locations like farmers' markets and secondary tasting rooms.
"Offering out-of-town visitors as well as regular market shoppers the option to taste-test and purchase locally made wines, ciders and craft beer, while they shop for local fruits and vegetables will ensure support for a vibrant farming sector in B.C.," said Jon Bell, president of the BC Association of Farmers' Markets. "It's also a great way for small local businesses that use B.C. grown farm products in alcoholic beverages to reach new customers, while providing increased selection and convenience."
B.C. will streamline licensing requirements for manufacturers so they can more easily expand their on-site tasting venues to include, for example, picnic tasting areas in a vineyard. The recommendations also include allowing manufacturers the ability to offer patrons liquor that is not produced on-site, providing greater selection for consumers and new revenue streams for manufacturers.
To further promote the many advantages of buying local, the B.C. government and Liquor Distribution Branch will move forward on recommendations to enhance marketing, promotion, education and product placement of made-in-B.C. products - both in and-out-of-province. In collaboration with industry and tourism associations, the Province will also develop new tools, such as smart-phone apps, maps and brochures on B.C.'s wealth of wineries, breweries and distilleries.
"These recommendations are about advancing B.C. products, building strong opportunities for the small business sector and offering even more compelling reasons to visit and explore British Columbia," said John Yap, Parliamentary Secretary for Liquor Policy Reform. "I'm encouraged that the B.C. government is pledging to move forward on these changes, which align with many of the thoughtful suggestions I received throughout my consultations."
In recognition of the newly flourishing market, the B.C. government will also explore the idea of establishing a quality assurance program, similar to the popular VQA wine program, for B.C. craft beer and artisan-distilled spirits, such as winter ales, cucumber-infused gin or B.C.-fruit brandy.
To further cut red tape, government will create a more streamlined application process for facilities such as ski hills and golf courses so they can temporarily extend their liquor licensed area to another part of the property, such as a patio or a barbeque area.
"Today's B.C. government is helping all of us in tourism tap further into our year-round potential the Thompson Okanagan has to offer," said Michael J. Ballingall, board chair of Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association and senior VP at Big White Ski Resort. "Whether it's enjoying après ski in the mountains, sipping a cold beer at one of our championship golf courses or tasting wine at one of our more than 200 valley wineries - these changes reflect modern marketplace realities and will help us all attract even more visitors to the Thompson Okanagan, and to British Columbia as a whole."
The B.C. government's support for these recommendations follows on the heels of the now-completed B.C. Liquor Policy Review. It is anticipated that the full report will be publicly released in the new year, once Cabinet has had the opportunity to fully consider its 70-plus recommendations.
The ultimate goal of the Liquor Policy Review is to modernize B.C.'s liquor laws, enhance consumer convenience and grow B.C.'s economy, while continuing to protect health and public safety.
- B.C. currently has 269 wineries, 76 breweries and 27 distilleries.
- B.C.'s liquor industry, a leading contributor to tourism, is worth $2 billion in economic impact, according to the BC Wine Institute, and every bottle of wine produced in B.C. is worth $42 in economic impact.
- B.C.'s wine industry alone brings in more than $298 million in federal and provincial taxes and Liquor Distribution Branch mark-up.
- B.C.'s tourism revenues are valued at more than $13.4 billion annually.
- More than 126,000 people work in the tourism in B.C. - that's almost one in every 15 jobs.
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 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
Read about the B.C. Liquor Policy Review's public and stakeholder engagement process: http://bit.ly/1cw4aVa
BC Association of Farmers' Markets: http://www.bcfarmersmarket.org/
BC Wine Institute: http://www.winebc.com/
Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association: http://www.totabc.org/
Big White Ski Resort: http://www.bigwhite.com/
A backgrounder follows.
Liquor Policy Review recommendations supported
The B.C. government is today supporting 12 recommendations from Parliamentary Secretary John Yap's Liquor Policy Review final report. They are:
- The Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) should improve its marketing of B.C. liquor products in stores, developing new opportunities for product placement and innovative promotional and educational materials.
- Government should work with industry and tourism associations to develop promotional materials such as maps, apps and brochures on B.C. wineries, breweries and distilleries.
- Government should work with other Canadian wine-producing jurisdictions to jointly develop thematic wine promotions in each jurisdiction's liquor stores to promote Canadian wine.
- Government should discuss establishing a quality assurance program for B.C. craft beer and artisan-distilled spirits (similar to the VQA wine program).
- Manufacturers should be able to establish low-risk tasting venues such as a picnic area as part of their existing licence without the need to apply for a specific endorsement. Government should work with industry, local government and First Nations to increase flexibility for tasting options for manufacturers while being sensitive to potential negative impacts, such as noise, on the community.
- Allow manufacturers to offer patrons liquor that was not produced on site (e.g., a winery could sell a beer to a visitor).
- Government should consult with the Agricultural Land Commission about amending the Agricultural Land Commission Act regulations to allow manufacturers operating within the Agricultural Land Reserve to allow more people in consumption areas (e.g. lounges) and to sell liquor that was not produced on site.
- Government should consult with industry and review the minimum requirements to obtain a brewery, winery or distillery licence. Government should also consider how these requirements are regulated by LCLB and LDB to ensure transparency and an effective regulatory system.
- Government should permit B.C. liquor manufacturers to offer products for sample and sale at temporary off-site retail locations (e.g., farmers' markets), with appropriate conditions. The decision about whether to allow vintners, brewers and distillers to showcase their products at a particular location will be left to the location management (e.g., farmers' market association).
- Allow patrons to buy bottles of liquor to take home that are showcased at festivals or competitions. Consider amending SOLs issued to festivals and competitions, or allow BC Liquor or private retail stores to operate a temporary store on site as the means to provide for these sales.
- Allow manufacturers to have off-site locations where they can sample and sell their products to the public (e.g., permanent tasting rooms in a downtown store).
- Provide a more streamlined and time-sensitive application process to allow facilities such as ski hills and golf courses to temporarily extend their licensed area to another part of the property (e.g., a patio near a ski-hill gondola lift or a temporary patio near a golf clubhouse).
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