Comox Valley businesses could benefit from provincial liquor changes

Several revisions to liquor laws are intended to create new business opportunities, and to support breweries and distilleries in B.C.

Several revisions to liquor laws are intended to create new business opportunities, and to support breweries and distilleries in B.C., as announced by Energy Minister Rich Coleman.

He is also in charge of liquor control, licensing and distribution.

Under the changes, brewers and distillers can now apply to have an on-site consumption area. As well, small- and medium-sized liquor manufacturers will be allowed up to three common ownership and business relationships with licensed establishments off their manufacturing site.

In addition, rules around how liquor manufacturers can promote their products in bars and restaurants have been simplified by removing the requirement for a buy-sell agreement.

While the changes won’t have a big impact on his operation, the owner of Coastal Black Estate Winery in Black Creek is encouraged to see “antiquated” regulations being modernized.

“Overall, I think it’s fantastic,” Abel O’Brennan said. “To see some of that getting a bit of a retooling is great.”

He is especially pleased that an honourary wine envoy will be named with a mandate to better open domestic markets for B.C. wines.

Other changes are as follows:

• Wine stores will become licensees under the Liquor Control and Licensing Act;

• Criteria on whether private liquor stores can relocate within one kilometre of a liquor store is set out in regulation, not policy;

• Increases to liquor-primary capacity now require local government input;

• Rural agency stores can purchase unlimited amounts of beer through government liquor stores.

The changes could benefit Island Spirits Distillery on Hornby Island and Shelter Point Distillery between Courtenay and Campbell River, says Comox Valley MLA Don McRae.

There are 14 licensed distilleries in B.C.

Under the new rules, qualifying craft distilleries will be eligible to have full markup exemption on sales to licensed establishments and consumers. Distillers in B.C. can now double their maximum annual production from 25,000 to 50,000 litres of finished product and remain in the craft distillery category.

In addition, products need to contain 100 per cent B.C. raw agriculture materials and be distilled by a licensed B.C. distillery.

“British Columbia has a tradition of excellence in agriculture,” said McRae, a recent agriculture minister. “We’ve seen small breweries, wineries and distilleries evolve from a cottage industry to products renowned around the world. New changes to the craft distillery policies will help support their excellent work and support agritourism in the Comox Valley.”