Playing by the Rules 

Whistler bars get a crash course in new liquor laws

While new liquor laws may level the playing field for license holders, for some establishments it’s going to take some time to adjust

A few years ago the provincial government and liquor branch came to the realization that liquor laws in B.C. were hopelessly dated and did not reflect the growing cosmopolitan image and tourism values of the province – the word "archaic" would not be out of place.

While bars and restaurants could prosper within the constrictive boundaries of their license specifications (10 different license types were available), licensed establishments felt they were unable to respond to trends or break from the restrictions imposed by their licenses in order to stay competitive in what is essentially a dog-eat-dog industry.

Joy MacPhail, the former finance minister for B.C., said the government would respond to the concerns of license holders by reducing red tape and streamlining licenses. "I believe small business is the future of this province, and business owners have told me very clearly that our liquor laws are out of date and, in some cases, downright obstructionist."

For example, under the current laws you aren’t allowed to sit in a restaurant and have a drink unless you order something off the menu. Some license holders were not allowed to host live entertainment or even install televisions, while still others were forced to close an hour earlier than other establishments.

In response, the B.C. government commissioned an independent review of provincial liquor laws in an attempt to bring the laws more in line with the needs and realities of business owners. The final report, titled Review of Liquor Regulations in the Province of British Columbia, contained recommendations on modernizing everything from liquor store hours of operation, to the licensing process, to the U-Brew and U-Vin industry.

Now, nearly two years after the review was completed and 18 months after it was officially adopted by cabinet, changes are finally taking place. Restaurant and bar owners are

Changes that apply to restaurants and bars include:

reducing the number of license types to two – ‘A’ licenses for businesses that mainly serve liquor, and ‘B’ licenses for those that serve mainly food;

Eliminating regulatory policies that serve no public health or safety purpose, such as regulations governing the number and size of televisions in bars and restaurants;

Allowing restaurants to serve beer and wine in holding lounges, which are limited to 10 per cent of an establishment’s seating or up to 20 seats;

Increasing hours of operation and seating capacity for pubs and lounges;

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