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Province further loosens laws to help restaurants

Customers can now bring their own wine for dinner, if restaurateurs approve

Bring your own booze (BYOB) has expanded in British Columbia but one Whistler restaurant manager is choosing to hold judgment on the new program for now.

Michael Brisbois, president of the Restaurant Association of Whistler, said it is too early to say if it is a good thing or not after the provincial government announced liquor law changes that allow customers to bring their own wine to a restaurant.

Brisbois did say that the new rules are great for customers.

"If a couple is celebrating their anniversary and they want to bring a bottle of wine that they had at their wedding, they can bring that special bottle and share the memories," said Brisbois.

According to cabinet minister Rich Coleman, restaurants can choose to allow customers to bring their own wine and charge a corkage fee to open it and serve it.

"We want to provide our restaurant industry with greater flexibility in terms of the services it can offer to its customers," said Coleman, Minister responsible for liquor.

Brisbois said restaurants in Whistler with an extensive wine list might choose not to participate.

He also added that it would likely take a year for restaurants in Whistler to fully assess the new program.

The B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association (BCRFA) and the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association support the policy change.

Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the BCRFA called the new program a common-sense solution that will help the restaurant industry.

"This gives industry the needed flexibility to get people out and dine more," said Tostenson. "More business will result in positive economic impacts such as increased employment and downstream benefits to suppliers of the industry."

Some restaurants were already quietly allowing customers to bring their own wine, he said.

"That was happening and this change legitimizes those who were allowing customers bring their own wine," said Tostenson.

He added that he thinks the change is positive for Whistler because of the number of visitors who come from places around the world where it's common practice to buy a bottle of wine from a store then take it to a restaurant to drink with a meal.

Restaurants will still be liable if patrons are over-served and liquor brought by a customer can't be served to minors. There are no plans to broaden the program beyond wine to include beer or other drink varieties.