Liquor Laws 

Local liquor license holders speak out again enforcement

In accepting the new liquor laws, Whistler license holders gave a little to get a little – and then, they say, they got stiffed

There are many positive things to say about the new terms and conditions that apply to B.C. liquor license holders, a new set of regulations to modernize and streamline the old systems (which were, by all descriptions, a dog’s breakfast). So how come nobody is saying those positive things?

For the past few weeks the Whistler rumour mill has been spinning stories of a militant RCMP crackdown on bars and restaurants, and an over-enthusiastic liquor license inspector who doesn’t live here, and who issues tickets at the drop of a hat.

Like every good rumour, there’s an element of truth. Tensions are very real – as evidenced by the letters to the editor we’ve been receiving and the strong show of support for Food and Beverage Association president Dale Schweighardt’s presentation to council on Jan. 29 – and have reached the boiling point.

"Everybody (license holders) is deeply concerned right now," says Schweighardt, who is also the manager of Buffalo Bill’s. "It’s a situation that’s potentially damaging to the industry and the resort.

"How is it damaging? When guests go away with a negative impression. I have guests right now who are talking about their experience with the police and liquor inspector rather than their experience on the mountain."

The roots of the conflict can be traced back to the Surich Liquor Policy Review, an independent analysis of the liquor industry in B.C. that included hundreds of recommendations on how to modernize, clarify and streamline the dated mishmash of provincial liquor laws regulations. The provincial government adopted the bulk of the recommendations on June 3, 1999, and started rolling out the policy changes last fall with the opening of some government liquor stores on Sunday.

That experiment was a disaster. Independent beer and wine store owners in Whistler lost tens of thousands of dollars in the first few months of Sunday openings, claiming that the liquor branch had been negligent in consulting with independent retailers. The government agreed and in December they voluntarily closed one of two government liquor stores in the village.

The problem wasn’t in the recommendation but with the implementation – Consultant Jo Surich specifically stated that no liquor stores should be opened on Sunday without consulting beer and wine store owners, addressing their needs, and then getting a clear go-ahead from the local government. The liquor branch didn’t do any of these things effectively, and were called on it by the provincial cabinet.

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