Some of the recommendations to loosen B.C.’s liquor laws worry Whistle Stop Pub owner Barry VanDusen not only as a pub owner, but also simply as a member of society.
He’s written a letter to Premier Christy Clark outlining his concerns around reinstating happy hour, relaxing food-service requirements, allowing kids in pubs, selling liquor in grocery stores and doing away with beer garden fencing at festivals and events.
“I honestly don’t believe the benefits of relaxing the liquor laws will do anything for the greater good,” says VanDusen. “I hope you will rethink the impact of this new line of thinking as it pertains to alcohol laws in the province.
“The only reason I can think of for the government’s relaxation of the liquor laws is to gather more revenue for the government coffers through taxation and fines and penalties for impaired drivers.”
The Province announced earlier this month it would accept the 73 recommendations listed in MLA John Yap’s Liquor Policy Review final report. The premier had already announced in December her government’s support for changes to allow happy hour offers and kids in pubs.
VanDusen says happy hour offers encourage more alcohol consumption in a short amount of time, as customers want to take advantage of the happy hour pricing, and he’s concerned more people will drive impaired.
“The very issues that were at the heart of happy hours when they were outlawed will return, yet now the .05 blood-alcohol limit is even stricter than the .08 before, so more people will be adversely affected by happy hours,” he says as he points out the various fines and expenses impaired drivers face when caught.
“Is the intent of allowing happy hours simply to add to the provincial budget through fees and fines associated with drinking-and-driving infractions? If not, what other ‘good’ comes out of again allowing these short-period drinking binges?”
VanDusen also points out he could receive a $10,000 fine for over-serving a patron at his pub.
Allowing children in pubs is another one of the recommendations VanDusen takes issue with. This recommendation suggests pubs would be able to choose whether or not they allow families into their establishments, and VanDusen says the Whistle Stop Pub will remain 19-plus, especially after hearing from his customers.
“I have surveyed my customers and there’s not a single, solitary one that said they wanted to see children in a pub,” he says, noting most of his customers come in to unwind after work and want an adult-oriented place to relax.
He adds kids would be exposed to adult behaviour and language like profanity and may be more tempted to try alcohol themselves if they’re around it more. He adds many family-friendly restaurants serve alcohol so parents can have a drink with dinner without bringing their kids to a pub.
As well, he points out allowing underage people into pubs doesn’t mean simply allowing kids in with their parents; it also means allowing teens in, and that means more stress and responsibility for serving staff.
“Say a 20-year-old brings a couple of his 18-year-old buddies in, he orders a beer, I’m going to have to be watching that table all the time they’re there to make sure he’s not trying to slip them a drink,” says VanDusen. “They’re just increasing my liability, No. 1, and my responsibility.”
He adds he could increase his food business from families but the risks aren’t worth the possible benefit.
VanDusen’s letter also outlined concerns around removal of beer garden fencing, liquor sales in grocery stores and relaxing food service requirements.
VanDusen is a past Comox councillor.