Province wants thoughts on booze rules 

Consultation process underway to update outdated B.C. liquor laws

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The provincial government has launched a consultation process aimed at future changes to outdated liquor control regulations.

Provincial liquor law changes are on the way but before the provincial government makes any big moves it wants to hear from industry insiders and residents of the province.

As part of the consultation process, MLA John Yap, parliamentary secretary for liquor policy reform, has sent out letters to more than 10,000 liquor licensees and liquor agency stores.

The letters have asked the industry members to write him back with ideas for change. Yap is planning to seek feedback in September from anyone else with thoughts on future changes to the way alcoholic drinks are managed in B.C. As fall approaches Yap plans to launch a new website that allows residents to submit ideas on how the system can be reformed, while also giving British Columbians a better understanding of how B.C.'s liquor system currently works.

A provincial government news release has described the existing liquor laws as outdated and inefficient.

Edward Dangerfield, president of the Restaurant Association of Whistler (RAW), said he will respond wearing three different hats. Along with being one of the owners of Alta Bistro and the leader of RAW, Dangerfield is on the Liquor License Advisory Committee (LLAC) that advises Whistler Council. The LLAC includes representation from Whistler hotels, bars, restaurants, nightclubs, the RCMP, the fire department, community services and the provincial liquor inspection branch.

Dangerfield is suggesting that anyone who wants to participate by providing feedback should understand what the provincial government is looking for.

"Any comments need to be constructive," said Dangerfield from his new restaurant in Pemberton, Solfeggio.

He noted that the provincial government has asked Yap to make sure his recommendations for change maintain or increase government liquor revenues. Yap has also been ordered to provide recommendations that keep public safety as a priority while also being mindful of the health and social harms caused by liquor. The mandate given to Yap also requests that his recommendations are evidence-based and produced through a transparent process and respect obligations under collective agreements and trade agreements.

"We have a crazy amount of volume that comes through our town," said Dangerfield. "When you're talking about the whole community of Whistler having a voice we actually do have a good voice."

Statistics released by the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch in January indicated that the B.C. Liquor Stores in the Sea to Sky corridor sold 3.7 million litres of liquor in the 2011-12 fiscal year with the majority of the sales taking place in Whistler outlets. The B.C. Liquor Store in Whistler's Marketplace brought in revenues of $11.5 million last year.

Because Whistler represents such a significant portion of liquor sales in B.C. Dangerfield said provincial government representatives heading up the consultation effort are being invited to meet with the LLAC to discuss proposed changes.

Dangerfield said he's excited about the process now underway.

"Even if nothing happens now, it is the first step to something happening," said Dangerfield.

Suzanne Anton, the province's Attorney General and Minister of Justice, said she wants to hear how residents of B.C. want their liquor laws reformed.

"Right now, some of B.C.'s liquor laws go back many years. In concert with industry and citizens, we are looking to make practical and responsible changes which promote consumer convenience and economic growth in the province, with a strong eye to maintaining public safety and protecting the health of our citizens," said Anton.

Yap said he's looking forward to meeting with people across the province to discuss booze.

"I know many British Columbians have a lot of opinions and our government is open to hearing them as we move forward in this process," said Yap.

The report from Yap is to be submitted to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice by Nov. 25 and it will also be released to the public.

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