New ‘happy hour’ pricing not popular with bar owners

Local bar owners are not thrilled with the new happy hour price structure. - File photo
Local bar owners are not thrilled with the new happy hour price structure.
— image credit: File photo

Renee Andor

Record Staff

Thanks to the implementation of minimum drink pricing in B.C., the Courtenay Elks Club has been forced to raise its prices.

“We had to increase our prices by 50 cents minimum, which doesn’t sound like much but it really is to the people that come here,” says Elks manager Lisa Woolman, noting the price of a pint of beer (20 oz.) at the club rose from $4.50 to $5 after the new rules came into effect late-June.

“Of course our being a club … (our lower prices are) sort of like a reward for our members and guests, who pay dues. So, then it means now they pay dues and then plus you have to charge the minimum price.”

As the Province introduced ‘happy hour’ pricing — allowing licensed establishments to sell drinks at discounted prices for periods of the day — it also set minimum drink pricing based on quantity. For example, draught beer can’t be cheaper than $0.25 per ounce at any time at a licensed establishment. The Elks Club previously charged $0.23 per ounce.

Minimum pricing for packaged beer, cider and coolers is $0.25 per ounce, or $3 per 341 ml bottle or or 355 ml can. Wine is $0.60 per ounce or $3 per 5 ounce glass and liqueurs or spirits is $2 per ounce.

A Ministry of Justice news release notes minimum pricing was implemented to “encourage responsible consumption,” as per views heard from industry and health advocates during the Province’s Liquor Policy Review.

“They’ve been worried about people over-consuming and therefore, have set the minimum charge. But, in doing so it seems that they didn’t have the forethought at the same time to think how that would affect the industry further than that one little window they’re looking in,” says Woolman.

“One could argue that if they go home, then we don’t have the drinking and driving issue, but they do because people want to get together with other people, a lot of the time. So, they still have to deal with their cabs, or their (designated drivers) or whatever it is.”

Whistle Stop Pub owner Barry VanDusen hasn’t been forced to raise his prices because his prices were already higher than the minimum; however, he has no plan to even consider ‘happy hour’ pricing at his establishment.

“This happy hour thing, as I said before and I’ll say forever, it’s ridiculous,” says VanDusen. “It’s promoting power drinking and then guess what, people will get in their vehicles and drive, and it’s putting more onus on my staff to make sure that people don’t drink and drive.”

Meanwhile, White Whale Public House co-owner Max Oudendag is pleased to have a happy hour option, though he points out the White Whale opened July 1, after happy hour was implemented in B.C.

The White Whale offers pints of beer for $5 from 4:20 to 5:20 p.m., but Oudendag says it’s too soon to say if the happy hour price itself is generating traffic to the White Whale.

“It’s really hard to know exactly who’s coming in because it’s happy hour or just coming in and happening to be here for it,” says Oudendag.

“It’s a nice option for us as a restaurant for us to be able to use something like that to get people in and I think in the next months we’ll start to be able to gauge how much it’s actually helping to driving traffic.”


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