On January 31, 2014, the Ministry of Justice released its B.C. Liquor Policy Review – Final Report. The summary of the 73 recommendations from this report are listed below:
Health, Safety and Social Responsibility
1. Government should expand public education about health and safety risks related to alcohol use, with particular emphasis on the harmful effects of binge drinking by youth and post-secondary students.
2. Government should identify all of its alcohol-related education initiatives to ensure they are focused and are as effective as possible.
3. Easily understood information about Canada’s Low Risk Drinking Guidelines should be made available to consumers in licensed establishments.
4. The Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB) should have the regulatory authority to require social responsibility public education material to be posted in all licensed establishments and liquor stores. These materials should be developed in consultation with industry.
5. Government, public health officials and industry should collaborate to develop effective and meaningful social responsibility educational campaigns for display in licensed establishments, liquor stores and advertising and public service campaigns.
6. While labeling liquor bottles and packages is the responsibility of the federal government, B.C. should work with the other provinces and territories to encourage warning labels on liquor products.
7. Serving it Right (SIR), the provincial government’s responsible beverage service program, should be expanded and enhanced:
a. Sales and service staff in restaurants, wine stores, rural agency stores and BC Liquor Stores who are not already required to have SIR certification should now be required to obtain it. Licensees, managers, and sales and serving staff should also be required to recertify.
b. A focused, abridged and less expensive version of SIR should be developed for people who receive Special Occasion Licences (SOLs) or who serve at these events. This will help ensure they understand their responsibilities around responsible handling of liquor.
c. SIR content should be updated to include information about:
i. Canada’s low-risk drinking guidelines. ii. the social and health costs of alcohol. iii. why alcohol is regulated.
d. SIR should continue to ask recent graduates to evaluate the program, with the aim of developing and introducing improvements.
8. The fee structure of SIR should be reviewed by the provider and government to ensure the cost to retailers and establishments is not onerous. Additionally, consideration should be given to the application of fee revenue to SIR program enhancements.
9. LCLB should develop an in-person educational program for licensees, like that in Ontario, to educate licensees and their staff about the Province’s liquor laws and how to operate their establishments in a responsible manner. The goal would be to increase licensee compliance and develop an increasing awareness of the health and safety harms from alcohol abuse. Government should consider using monetary penalties imposed on licensees to fund this initiative.
10. Government should encourage police to use the enforcement tools of ticketing and fines more frequently for those people under 19 years of age who are caught possessing liquor, using false identification or being in restricted premises selling liquor. Liquor retailers and the public should also be made more aware of the severity of these penalties.
11. Government should review enforcement penalties of LCLB and other jurisdictions to ensure that B.C.’s penalty levels are appropriate.
12. Due to the varying size and focus of licensed establishments, consideration should be given to how different types of penalties (e.g., a suspension versus a monetary penalty) may impact a licensee and staff.
13. LCLB should work with police agencies to explore implementing “last drink” programs across B.C. on a more concerted basis. If an impaired person’s last drink was in a licensed establishment, LCLB can investigate and possibly levy penalties for overserving clients.
14. LCLB should have the authority to regulate the home delivery of alcohol and should consider that home delivery service providers require SIR certification.
15. Applicants and licensees seeking a review of LCLB decisions should have access to a new and separate decision-making body outside the licensing branch. The Ministry of Justice should review current processes and determine how best to provide independent decision-making for those seeking appeal.
16. 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.
17. LDB should review its minimum pricing policy as it applies to all categories of liquor so that minimum prices are set at an appropriate level.
18. LDB should consider tying minimum prices to the amount of alcohol (e.g., a beer with seven per cent alcohol would have a higher minimum price than a beer with four per cent alcohol).
Retail and Convenience
19. 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.
20. Introducing liquor in grocery stores should be phased in, giving public and private liquor stores time to adjust to the new retail model.
21. In consultation with industry, government should develop a policy that standardizes the types of non-liquor products that can be sold in liquor retail outlets.
22. As a grocery model is developed, government should look at consistency in operating hours for licensed, rural agency and manufacturer retail stores.
Economic Growth, Jobs, Tourism and Marketing
23. LDB should improve its marketing of B.C. liquor products in stores, developing new opportunities for product placement and innovative promotional and educational materials.
24. Government should work with industry and tourism associations to develop promotional materials such as maps, apps and brochures on B.C. wineries, breweries and distilleries.
25. Government should work with other Canadian wine-producing jurisdictions to jointly develop thematic wine promotions in each jurisdiction’s liquor stores to promote Canadian wine.
26. Government should discuss establishing a quality assurance program for B.C. craft beer and artisan-distilled spirits (similar to the VQA wine program).
27. 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.
28. Allow manufacturers to offer patrons liquor that was not produced on site (e.g., a winery could sell a beer to a visitor).
29. Government should consult with the Agricultural Land Commission about amending the Agricultural Land Commission Act regulations to allow manufacturers operating within the Agricultural Land Reserve to allow more people in consumption areas (e.g. lounges) and to sell liquor that was not produced on site.
30. Government should consult with industry and review the minimum requirements to obtain a brewery, winery or distillery licence. Government should also consider how these requirements are regulated by LCLB and LDB to ensure transparency and an effective regulatory system.
31. Government should 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).
32. Allow patrons to buy bottles of liquor to take home that are showcased at festivals or competitions. Consider amending 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.
33. Allow manufacturers to have off-site locations where they can sample and sell their products to the public (e.g., permanent tasting rooms in a downtown store).
Licensing and Cutting Red Tape
34. Minors, if accompanied by a parent or guardian, should be permitted in certain liquor-primary establishments.
a. Government should establish a reasonable time (e.g., until 9 p.m.) that respects both the family’s choice to include minors in some events and the establishment’s responsibility to ensure an appropriate environment for all.
b. Licensees should continue to have the option of an adult-only establishment.
c. For those establishments that currently offer gaming options, LCLB should have the authority to approve or deny whether minors are to be allowed based on a minor’s potential access to gaming. Minors should not be permitted in casinos or community gaming centres. As well, minors should not be allowed into establishments that offer adult entertainment.
35. The LCLB should clarify and modernize regulations with respect to food-primary operations, including lounge and kitchen requirements.
36. Food-primary licensees should continue to focus on food service, with a full menu available whenever liquor service is available. However, patrons should not be obligated to – or made to feel like they must – order food if they do not wish to eat.
37. Food-primary enterprises that wish to fully transition away from food service after a certain hour (e.g., 9 p.m.) – if, for example, they wanted to operate as a nightclub – will be able to apply for a licence endorsement, allowing them to operate like a liquor-primary licence during those hours only.
a. Minors would not be allowed in the establishment after that time.
b. To reflect the approach taken on liquor-primary licences, local government and residents should be consulted as part of the approval process.
38. Food- or liquor-primary licences should be available to other types of businesses, allowing a range of new establishments (e.g., spas, cooking schools, and galleries) to offer liquor to their clientele as an additional service.
39. Government should consult with UBCM, local governments and First Nations about streamlining the liquor application process. An applicant for a liquor primary licence should be able to seek input from the local government or First Nation before or at the same time it applies to LCLB.
40. The criteria used by local governments and First Nations to evaluate an application from their community and then make a recommendation to LCLB should be determined by the local government or First Nation. This respects the role of local governments and First Nations in setting standards for assessing liquor-licence applications in their communities.
41. The provincial government should amend legislation so local government councils could, if they wish, give staff the authority to provide recommendations on licence applications (e.g., licence amendments involving a change in hours or capacity) directly to LCLB. This means local government recommendations would not have to be endorsed by a council resolution.
42. In the interest of customer service, First Nations, local and provincial governments should identify target timelines to resolve all applications related to liquor licensing.
43. Introduce online applications to simplify the process.
44. Government should create an annual SOL for organizations that hold occasional meetings or activities throughout the year. Licence holders could store unconsumed liquor for future events. The licence holder would be required to ensure the safe transport and storage of unconsumed liquor product.
45. Event organizers should be able to apply for a single SOL that covers multiple events held over several days at several locations.
46. Consult with police and local governments and First Nations to find ways to streamline their role in approving small-capacity, time-limited events (e.g., family wedding) that have little or no public safety risks for their communities.
47. Police should continue to be informed of all upcoming SOL events in their communities.
48. Remove the regulation that requires non-profit organizations to apply for an SOL for concerts and events. This will allow promoters who actually manage the event, to be responsible to meet all requirements of the liquor licence.
49. Permit businesses to obtain SOLs to raise funds for charity.
50. Permit hobby brewers and vintners to apply for an SOL to host competition events, allowing homemade beers and wines to be sampled by both judges and the public.
51. Except where it is not suitable from a public safety perspective, permit whole site licensing for public events, eliminating “beer gardens.”
52. Allow the sale of mixed-spirit drinks at public SOL events.
53. Allow hosts to serve UBrew/UVin or homemade beer or wine at SOL events (e.g., weddings, family reunions).
54. Government should consult with clubs to determine if there is interest in repealing the club designation, and reclassify the licence as food-primary or liquor-primary.
55. The provincial government should introduce a new licence class and streamlined application process for facilities (e.g., stadiums, arenas and theatres) that charge a fee for an event (e.g., a sporting event or play). Minors should be permitted to stay until the event ends.
56. There should be more drink choices (e.g., mixed spirits) for consumers, as in all other types of licensed establishments.
57. Liquor sales in arenas and stadiums should be permitted in all public areas. As part of this, stadiums should have increased flexibility to provide hawking services to patrons in both the seated and concourse areas, and throughout the scheduled event.
58. LDB warehousing and distribution systems should be modernized and streamlined. The wholesale ordering processes should be improved with the goal of better and more efficient service to clients.
59. Any establishment that sells liquor should be able to provide samples in a socially responsible manner.
60. Permit licensees to store liquor in secure, off-site locations, subject to notifying LCLB.
61. Individual establishments that are part of a larger company (e.g., chain outlets) should be able to transfer small amounts of liquor between locations.
62. 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).
63. Permit patrons to carry liquor between adjoining licensed establishments (e.g., from the pub to the adjoining restaurant).
64. Allow hotel and resort patrons to carry liquor throughout designated areas of the hotel (e.g., carrying a glass of wine presented at check-in to the hotel room).
65. Extend the hours that patrons can receive liquor through room service.
66. Allow liquor-primary establishments to offer more liquor-free events for all-ages (e.g., music concerts).
67. Allow multi-use buildings (e.g., community centres) to use licensed space for non-alcohol related purposes.
68. Allow private and public retail liquor stores to sell growlers (refillable bottles) and operate refilling stations.
69. Change the regulations allowing UBrew/UVin members to change their name to Ferment-On-Premise (FOP) to be consistent with federal legislation. Establishments can continue to call themselves UBrews/UVins if they choose.
70. Permit the owners and family members of UBrews and UVins to own other liquor-related establishments.
71. Remove or streamline the requirement that changes in corporate share ownership must be reported to LCLB, provided no new shareholders are added.
72. To make the required adjustment, the Ministry of Justice should develop an effective change management plan, which should include training and professional development for staff and consideration of appropriate LCLB resources.
73. Ensure that these recommendations, when taken in total, represent a significant reduction in red tape for businesses in the liquor industry in B.C., to support economic development.
This article is intended to be an overview of the law and is for informational purposes only. Readers are cautioned that this article does not constitute legal or professional advice and should not be relied on as such. Rather, readers should obtain specific legal advice in relation to the issues they are facing.
This article was written by a lawyer formerly with Lindsay Kenney LLP.