Province reviewing B.C. liquor laws

Reforming B.C.’s liquor laws is a goal some groups have spent years trying to convince the provincial government is necessary.

Reforming B.C.’s liquor laws is a goal some groups have spent years trying to convince the provincial government is necessary.

That day is finally at hand, as the province announced the long-awaited review of B.C. Liquor laws last week.

“I am very thankful that we have a government that recognizes the need to address these issues and is proactive now. I am very encouraged,” said John Skinner, owner of Painted Rock Winery. He’s also a director of Modernize Wine, which, along with Free My Grapes, has been advocating for just this kind of review.

“There are certain things in an evolved wine culture that are just common sense,” said Skinner. “They need to create laws and policies that encourage this new and young industry.”

John Yap, parliamentary secretary for liquor policy reform, began the first phase of this review with letters sent to major stakeholders throughout B.C. asking for written feedback and ideas for change.

“I look forward to working with industry representatives, health and public-safety advocates and engaging directly with the public online,” said Yap. “I know many British Columbians have a lot of opinions and our government is open to hearing them as we move forward in this process.”

Some of the issues that the review will address are: not allowing minors that are accompanied by a parent or guardian into pubs that serve food during daytime hours; not allowing establishments like spas to be eligible for licensing permits and not allowing wines and other local liquor to be sold at farmers’ markets.

“That’s the low hanging fruit, that’s a real obvious one,” said Skinner, adding that wineries would jump at the chance to have a presence at farmers markets.

There is issue after issue that needs to be addressed, according to Skinner, including allowing winery restaurants situated on ALR land, to be able to serve a wider variety of spirits.

“The primary objective is to modernize all of the policies and laws. In the case of Tinhorn Creek their restaurant should be able to serve all wines, all beers, everything,” said Skinner.

Yap will also be requesting input from more than 10,000 liquor licensees and liquor agency stores as well as meeting with groups from industry, local governments, First Nations, police, and health and social policy associations throughout September and October.

The second phase of the review will take a still wider approach, with a website where British Columbians can provide their input.

“Right now, some of B.C.’s liquor laws go back many years,” said Suzanne Anton, attorney general and minister of justice. “Once the public consultation process begins in September, British Columbians can let us know how they would like to see B.C.’s liquor laws reformed.”

Following these two consultation phases, Yap’s report will be submitted to the Attorney General by Nov. 25, 2013.