The provincial agency BC Healthy Communities is overseeing the development of municipal alcohol policies throughout the province.
This project focuses on Special Occasion Licences in order to streamline the licence application process; each community will have the ability to specify terms and conditions relevant to each municipality.
A special occasion licence allows for non-profits or individuals to sell alcohol in beer gardens, at weddings, birthdays and other events in otherwise-unlicensed locations such as parks and community halls.
The Liquor Distribution Branch administers the Special Occasion Licence Program on behalf of the B.C. government and issues the Special Occasion licence at the government liquor store nearest to the event. Over 1,000 Special Occasion Licences were issued in the Comox Valley between 2011 and 2013.
A Municipal Alcohol Policy is a harm-reduction initiative that addresses public health and safety while also raising awareness of the roles and responsibilities of alcohol consumption and provision. This policy will help to clarify the guidelines for alcohol service at special occasion events.
Pilot projects for the development of a municipal alcohol policy have already been conducted in Whistler and Maple Ridge with current projects in Kitimat, Prince George, Fort St. James, Prince Rupert and West Kelowna — and now also in the Comox Valley.
Various partners are supporting the process of developing a Municipal Alcohol Policy; the Ministry of Health and the Centre for Addictions Research of BC have worked with BC Healthy Communities to develop information and data to assist communities.
In addition to the grant funding, each community has also received a workbook and data package to provide information for the Municipal Alcohol Policy development process.
Community and stakeholder involvement is a key part of the policy development. A steering committee has been established with representatives from all local governments, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Vancouver Island Health Authority, BC Liquor Distribution Branch, Comox Valley Kickers Rugby, the Slo-pitch Association, Cumberland Village Works, and Labatt Breweries.
Community members-at-large will have the opportunity to respond to an online survey (www.surveymonkey.com/s/7JGTQKL) also available at the front desk at recreation centres in Comox, Courtenay and Cumberland.
Opportunities to give feedback will also happen at an open house in the fall.
The Town of Comox has been awarded funding by BC Healthy Communities to hire a consultant, Sonya Jenssen with Wedler Engineering LLP, to assist in the development of this policy.
For more information about this project, contact Jim Stevenson, Town of Comox recreation director, at 250-339-2255.
— BC Healthy Communities