B.C. Government Outlines Its New Liquor Plans

B.C. liquor laws | BCBusiness
Come spring/summer 2014, liquor manufacturers will be able to sell their goods at B.C. farmers markets.

The government sets a date for happy hour and other highly anticipated amendments to the province’s liquor laws

In a news release today, the government of B.C. outlined a two-part model for grocery-store liquor sales and laid out future implementation dates for 15 amendments to the province’s liquor laws.

The first grocery-store model will be a “store within a store,” which will apply to private liquor licences that are transferred into or sold to a grocery store, as well as to government liquor licences that are transferred into grocery stores. This model will allow beer, wine and spirits to be sold through separate cashiers.

The second model will allow VQA wine to be sold off designated shelves within the store and purchased at designated tills. The goal is to implement both models in early 2015.

“Our framework for liquor sales in grocery stores lays the foundation for a flexible and unique model that will continue to protect health and public safety, enhance convenience and choice for consumers and drive our economy forward with the promotion of made-in-B.C. products,” said attorney general and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton in the release.

A complete rewrite of the Liquor Control and Licensing Act is planned for spring 2015, but the government is adopting what it calls a “phased-in approach,” which will allow for faster implementation of the key recommendations. Some of the much-anticipated changes to the province’s liquor laws include allowing time-limited drink specials—or, happy hour—which is slated for spring/summer 2014; and permitting liquor manufacturers to offer samples and sales at off-site retail locations, such as farmers markets, which is also slated for spring/summer 2014. These are two of the 15 soon-to-be-implemented changes outlined by the government in its release.

“We committed to British Columbians and to the industry that we would act quickly to modernize B.C.’s liquor laws—and we’re delivering on that promise by bringing in an initial set of amendments to our liquor laws today,” said Anton. The implementation timeline for the remaining recommendations from the Liquor Policy Review will be announced at a later date.

See below for the rest of the impending plans, as outlined by the government:

Spring/Summer 2014
· Permit B.C. liquor manufacturers to offer products for sample and sale at temporary off-site retail locations (e.g., farmers’ markets), with appropriate conditions. The decision about whether to allow vintners, brewers and distillers to showcase their products at a particular location will be left to the location management (e.g., farmers’ market association) (recommendation 31).
· Allow patrons to buy bottles of liquor to take home that are showcased at festivals or competitions. Consider amending Special Occasion Licences (SOLs) issued to festivals and competitions, or allow BC Liquor or private retail stores to operate a temporary store on site as the means to provide for these sales (recommendation 32).
· Permit licensees to offer time-limited drink specials (e.g., happy hours), provided the price is not below a prescribed minimum consistent with those advocated by health advocates (recommendation 16).
· Allow hosts to serve UBrew/UVin or homemade beer or wine at SOL events (e.g. weddings, family reunions) (recommendation 53).
· Permit licensees to store liquor in secure, off-site locations, subject to notifying the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (recommendation 60).
· Allow individual establishments that are part of a larger company (e.g., chain outlets) to transfer small amounts of liquor between locations (recommendation 61).
· Permit the owners and family members of UBrews and UVins to own other liquor-related establishments (recommendation 70).
Fall 2014
· Provide regulatory authority for the LCLB to require social responsibility public education material to be posted in all licensed establishments and liquor stores (recommendation 4).
· Expand and enhance Serving it Right (SIR), the provincial government’s responsible beverage service program (recommendation 7).
· Due to the varying size and focus of licensed establishments, consideration should be given to how different types of penalties (e.g. a suspension vs. a monetary penalty) may impact a licensee and staff (recommendation 12).
· Manufacturers should be able to establish low-risk tasting venues such as a picnic area as part of their existing licence without the need to apply for a specific endorsement. Government should work with industry, local government and First Nations to increase flexibility for tasting options for manufacturers while being sensitive to potential negative impacts, such as noise, on the community (recommendation 27).
· Allow manufacturers to offer patrons liquor that was not produced on site (e.g., a winery could sell a beer to a visitor) (recommendation 28).
· Provide a more streamlined and time-sensitive application process to allow facilities such as ski hills and golf courses to temporarily extend their licensed area to another part of the property (e.g., a patio near a ski-hill gondola lift or a temporary patio near a golf clubhouse) (recommendation 62).
Winter 2015
· The Province should develop and implement a retail model that meets consumer demands for more convenience by permitting the sale of liquor in grocery stores. Government should continue to restrict the total number of retail outlets and require separation of grocery products and liquor. This reflects the views of health and safety advocates and the acknowledged safety benefits of restricting minors’ access to liquor (recommendation 19).
Fall 2015:
· Permit hobby brewers and vintners to apply for a SOL to host competition events, allowing homemade beers and wines to be sampled by both judges and the public (recommendation 50).