B.C. VIEWS: Province eyes new round of liquor reforms

Liberal government seeks creative ways to liberalize alcohol sales without social damage

A new liquor licence for party buses could help reduce impaired driving.

VICTORIA – The B.C. Liberal government is ordering up another round of liquor regulation changes, looking for ways to make life easier for businesses and customers without aggravating the health and social problems associated with alcohol.

Discussions with B.C.’s 10,000 liquor licence holders have identified a few problems that should be fixed. Going into a consultation phase that runs to October, the government is looking for answers to a few obvious questions, such as why it takes a pub or bar up to a year to get a licence.

Another question: why can a family with under-aged children go into a licensed restaurant for lunch, but can’t go to a pub and place the exact same food and drink order? This should be allowed, perhaps until the traditional 5 p.m. “happy hour” when the pub reverts to adults-only.

A couple of suggestions have come out of the healthy growth of B.C. wine, craft beer and distillery operations. Look for new licence opportunities for farmers’ markets to sell local beverages along with the produce and preserves.

Letters inviting suggestions from existing licence holders have gone out, and Richmond-Steveston MLA John Yap will be meeting this fall with industry groups, local governments, police, health and social policy organizations and First Nations in the fall.

A website will be put up in September so members of the public can have their say. Here’s my suggestion to start things off.

Recent incidents involving so-called “party buses” shone a light on this growing industry, The sudden death of a 16-year-old on a party bus outing in Surrey in February turned out not to be alcohol-related, but to no one’s surprise, open liquor was found aboard the bus.

Open liquor isn’t allowed in any vehicle, but perhaps a new kind of special event licence could be created for party buses. They have been viewed mainly as part of the solution to impaired driving, and the situation isn’t much different from a supervised event on a boat.

Here’s another suggestion. Gourmet cooking classes are becoming popular, with customers preparing and then enjoying their meals. Why not licence these establishments, at least so people can bring their own wine for dinner?

Both the B.C. Liberals and NDP have advocated for easing the archaic rules on inter-provincial trade in wine. B.C. lifted its restrictions on mail-order wine and has urged other provinces to follow suit.

There are a couple of reasons why this Prohibition-era structure persists. Liquor sales are a cash cow for provincial governments, and every case of wine brought in from elsewhere is lost profit for the provincial wholesale monopoly. Then there is the local industry lobby that would rather not add to its competition.

Premier Christy Clark pressed this point at the recent premiers’ meeting in Ontario wine country, bringing in the maximum amount of B.C. wine allowed under Ontario rules and urging free trade in Canadian wine.

The Toronto media drank it up, aghast that they were barred from ordering the latest Naramata Bench tipples directly. No movement so far from the Ontario government, in a province that has done well developing its own wine industry.

The B.C. government will no doubt be lobbied again to allow beer and wine sales in grocery and convenience stores. Our politicians show little interest in that, which is understandable. The B.C. Liberals don’t want to upset the private liquor stores they have nurtured for a decade, and the NDP would never risk annoying the government liquor store union.

There are more creative ways to liberalize alcohol sales.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.comTwitter: @tomfletcherbc Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Just Posted

Outdoor classroom coming to Huband Park Elementary

The project has been a collaboration of various community groups, says PAC member

Marijuana to be legal in Canada Oct. 17: Trudeau

Prime Minister made the announcement during question period in the House of Commons

Campbell River schools, First Nations preserve traditional tongue

Project uses new technology to promote language to kids

Public to have say about pot

Senate passes Cannabis Act

A talent in the making

Pats consider 16-year-old a leader

In reversal, Trump signs executive order to stop family separation

President had been wrongly insisting he had no choice but to separate families apprehended at border

50 new fires sparked in B.C. after lightning strikes across province

Similar conditions seen at the beginning of 2017 wildfire season

B.C. woman graduates high school at age 92

Nanaimo’s Joan Deebank the oldest high school graduate ever in B.C., as far as ministry can confirm

B.C. Appeal Court rules lottery winner must be paid back $600,000 loan

Enone Rosas won $4.1 million in a lottery in 2007 and loaned a portion to a friend

17th Street to be repaved

Motorists can expect closures and detours

B.C. man surprised after used needle falls from sky

A Vernon resident said a syringe fell out of the sky and landed at his feet

Y2K Spitfire comes home

Stocky Edwards guest of honour at banquet

Liquor review finds issues with B.C. wholesale monopoly

Report calls for ‘conflict of interest’ in system to be fixed

Police look for driver of blue Jeep who may have helped at fatal crash

A 19-year-old girl was killed in a crash near Delta on June 2

Most Read