With nearly a hundred regional vendors selling their B.C.-made wares and artisanal foods each week, it seems the only thing the Whistler Farmers Market is missing is the perfect craft brew or bottle of wine to take home.
That is, until now.
With Attorney General Suzanne Anton' announcement Saturday, June 21 that B.C. farmers' markets can now begin sampling and selling wine, beer, cider and spirits, Whistler Farmers Market manager Chris Quinlan welcomed a decision that was a longtime coming.
"Perfect timing," said Quinlan, less than two weeks before the resort market celebrates its 20th anniversary. "It goes further to our mandate of facilitating the availability of regionally produced products."
Coinciding with the Canada Day weekend, Quinlan said the Whistler Farmers Market will likely begin selling B.C.-made liquor next Sunday, June 29. Two regional producers will be showcased on a rotating basis. A decision on which two will join over 90 other vendors next weekend hasn't been cemented yet, but Quinlan said producers like Squamish's Howe Sound Brewing, Whistler Brewing Company, Pemberton Distillery and Fort Berens Winery in Lillooet are being considered.
"Those are the kind of producers we definitely want to see," Quinlan said. "We've also had interest from the big estate wineries, and … a couple of different agencies representing the smaller wineries have already contacted us."
The market also runs Wednesday nights through July and August, and Quinlan said liquor producers will be encouraged to showcase their products in an effort to drive interest in the weeknight market. The Wednesday market begins July 2 in the Upper Village with a 20th anniversary celebration featuring live music and cake.
Under the new regulations, liquor samples must be finished at the vendor's booth, and cannot be carried around the market. Manufacturers are required to apply directly to the farmers' market for approval, and vendors will have to be Serving It Right certified. The sale of liquor at markets also must comply with municipal bylaws.
Last month, council approved a bylaw amendment allowing event-related liquor sales at temporary offsite locations, like at farmers' markets. Previously, liquor sales were restricted to nine established retail stores in the resort.
Saturday's announcement follows the establishment of happy hour in B.C. and new minimum drink pricing rules, which went into effect Friday, June 20. Until the change, B.C. was the only province that did not allow bars and restaurants to change alcohol pricing throughout the day.
Among the other changes that recently went into effect, liquor-primary establishments can now apply to accommodate minors. Previously, bars and pubs could only permit minors until 8 p.m. The new cutoff time is 10 p.m.
"Our government has opened the door to family-friendly changes, with updated liquor policies that align with feedback I received from legions, the hospitality industry and British Columbians during the Liquor Policy Review," said Parliamentary Secretary for Liquor Policy Reform John Yap, in a written statement. "We are leaving it up to the local associations and businesses to decide whether to pursue these changes."
The move is a major win for family-friendly resort establishments as well as the municipality, as officials had lobbied the province before to allow minors past 8 p.m. in certain circumstances.
Another major change that will impact Whistler's food and beverage sector is the removal of a requirement for customers to order food with drinks at licensed restaurants.
So far, 17 of 73 liquor policy recommendations have been implemented. Victoria expects to have most in place by next spring.
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