Province supports liquor sales at farmers' markets, festivals 

Victoria to ease licensing process for ski resorts

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Local beer, wine and spirit producers will soon be able to sell their wares at the Whistler Farmer's Market and other resort events.

This follows an announcement by the provincial government that it supported increased flexibility in B.C.'s liquor licensing process.

This week the province also announced that it is in favour of "Happy Hour" offers, with drinks to have a set minimum price, and allowing kids to enter pubs up to a certain time. In addition, customers in restaurants or bars, which primarily serve food would not be required to order food with their drinks, and customers would be able to move freely with their alcoholic bevies from one adjoining licensed area to another — between a an outdoor patio and an indoor section of the business, for example.

"It's pretty amazing," said Tyler Schramm, master distiller at Pemberton Distillery. "I thought this would happen maybe one day but I didn't think it was coming this quickly. It will be really great for farmer's markets and a great way for us to get out there and share our products with people."

Pemberton Distillery is a family-owned boutique craft distillery producing handcrafted spirits, as well as non-alcoholic extracts and elixirs that have been sold at Whistler's market in previous years.

"For the Whistler market, this will give us an opportunity to add a little more diversity in what we're able to showcase," said Whistler Farmer's Market manager Chris Quinlan.

RMOW council's appointee to the municipal Liquor Licensing Advisory Committee, John Grills, said the success of September's inaugural Whistler Village Beer Festival clearly demonstrated the resort has "a real interest" in craft beer and liquor products.

Attendees to that event were allowed to consume beer within the Olympic Plaza premises under a Special Occasions License sponsored by the Whistler Community Services Society. Under this type of permit, all event proceeds are required to go to a charitable organization, something Whistler officials have been lobbying the province to amend.

Whistler Blackcomb, through its membership in the Canada West Ski Areas Association (CWSAA), has also actively pushed Victoria to update its liquor policies, requesting officials either liberalize the existing liquor licensing process or create a hybrid license specifically for ski resorts that would replace the current food or liquor primary licenses issued.

The goal, according to Whistler Blackcomb's director of food and beverage Paul Street, is to remove some of the red tape around licensing applications and to allow liquor service within the Controlled Recreation Area to facilitate on-mountain events, outdoor functions and to allow alcohol service with and without food.

As part of the Dec. 11 announcement, the province committed to easing the application process for facilities, such as ski hills and golf courses, so they can temporarily extend their liquor licensed areas to another part of the property.

"Right now, we're not able to serve beer outside of any of our venues or off of our patios, so our goal would be to be more flexible and creative about how we do that," Street said. "It's not possible for us to capitalize on a sunny day when our hills are at maximum capacity to execute a barbecue with a bucket of cold beer and create a fun, festive environment in other areas of our ski hill."

Whistler Blackcomb, which, along with other CWSAA members, met with John Yap, Parliamentary Secretary for Liquor Policy Reform in October to voice concerns, also wants the ability to offer satellite food and liquor service at sporting events, similar to what was permitted during the Olympics, Street said. Current B.C. liquor policies also hinder the ski resort operator's efforts to attract group and conference business, he added.

"We want to be able to say 'yes' to destination conference groups that are planning to come to Whistler, so we can do special events on the mountain without fear of being unable to secure the kind of licensing we need to do that," he said.

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