Following a recent policy review commissioned by the province,
B.C. is prepared to implement 15 of 73 recommended changes to its
antiquated liquor laws with the introduction of Bill 15, 2014 – Liquor Control and Licensing
Amendment Act. The remainder of the recommendations have
also been endorsed by the province but will be phased in over an
unspecified period of time.
Changes are being proposed across the board, from private liquor
sales and restaurant/bar licenses to manufacturing and
distribution. The focus of the review, which involved a
lengthy public consultation process, was to increase convenience to
consumers and reduce the regulatory burden for manufacturers while
maintaining a balance with public health and safety.
Some of the imminent changes affecting manufacturers include
allowing the sale of their products at off-site retail locations
such as farmers markets, festivals and competitions, introducing
"low risk" tasting venues on site without the need to
obtain an additional endorsement on an existing license and
allowing the sale of third party liquor products not produced on
A significant and welcome change for restaurant and bars
includes lifting the ban on happy hour drink specials and lessening
restrictions on storage and transportation of liquor, beer and
wine. Other changes that are yet to be proposed in the
legislation include allowing children into bars and removing or
reducing restrictions associated with food primary licenses
currently requiring bar and restaurant owners to have physical
barriers within their establishments for areas serving alcohol-only
or requiring customers to purchase food if alcohol was being
On the enforcement and compliance side, more discretion will be
provided in issuing penalties allowing the regulators to consider
the size and focus of the establishment and the impact of the
penalty on the licensee and its staff. For example a monetary
fine may be more appropriate considering all the circumstances than
a license suspension.
Finally, the change that has attracted the most public attention
and support is allowing the sale of alcohol in grocery
stores. Currently, liquor, beer and wine can only be sold in
government run liquor stores or one of the 670 licensed private
liquor stores throughout the province. The new legislation
will allow a store-within-a-store model for the sale of alcohol
within grocery stores. However, the province recently renewed
a 2002 moratorium on new licenses that will remain in place until
the year 2022. Accordingly, this new model has also attracted
some criticism, as grocery stores will have to convince existing
private liquor stores to move in.
All in all, the proposed changes present a welcome and
refreshing overhaul to the province's current antiquated liquor
licensing and control regime.
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