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

Four cheer teams heading to Florida

Mission’s Academy of Cheer Excellence will compete in the Summit World Championships in Orlando

Job market to remain tight in coming years: report

Conference Board of Canada predicts region’s unemployment rate to remain below five per cent

Trio of Mission lacrosse talents sign with U.S. schools

Abbott, Adams and Bramley continuing lacrosse journey in NCAA

Sister of teen gunned down in 2014 aims to keep kids out of gangs

Jessica Sherman volunteers for KidsPlay Foundation in Abbotsford

Mission students, teachers help to create art work

Heritage Park Middle School unveiled A River of Belonging

VIDEO: Killer whales hunt for seals in Vancouver harbour

Bigg’s killer whales feed on marine mammals like seals, sea lions, dolphins and even other whales

VIDEO: B.C.’s waving granny gets incredible send-off from school kids

Tinney Davidson has been waving at students on their way to school for over 11 years, but is moving in a month

Struggling B.C. adoption agency elects new board that intends to keep it open

The previous board announced that Choices would close May 31

Woman, 60, charged in connection to thefts at YVR

RCMP believe the foreign national is part of a larger organized theft group

Vancouver man, 19, charged in human trafficking case involving teen girl

The 16-year-old girl was reported missing and later discovered in Vancouver

Worst 10 bus routes in Metro Vancouver for rider complaints

TransLink releases list, with Route 319 at the top

Mayors, First Nations chiefs, urge ‘immediate action’ on new Massey crossing

Joint letter asks province to move up timeline, consider only eight-lane tunnel options

Bus driver assault in Vancouver once again raises safety concerns

A 49-year-old Surrey man was released on a promise to appear in court. No charge has been laid

Most Read