New liquor rules could open doors for Greater Trail businesses

Alcohol could soon become a beverage choice in Greater Trail locales outside of more traditional venues like pubs.

Alcohol may be on the menu for more B.C. businesses come January.

Alcohol may be on the menu for more B.C. businesses come January.

Coffee, tea or chardonnay?

Wine, beer and spirits could soon become a beverage choice in Greater Trail locales outside of more traditional venues like pubs, bars and restaurants.

Beginning Jan. 23 businesses like barber shops, salons, spas, and art galleries will be able to apply for a primary liquor licence and offer a pint of suds or glass of vino not just for special events, but as an everyday choice.

The province just revealed the updated policy this week, coining “fancy a shave and scotch” or “mani-pedi-champagne” in its release so the idea is still fresh for local retailers and services.

Dr. Stephanie Cameron owner of ReNew Medispa in Trail and Castlegar was intrigued to hear of the changes.

“Wow, I was not aware this was happening so quickly,” she said. “ReNew Medispa would certainly be interested in providing more options for our clients to enhance their spa experience.”

The Ministry of Small Business Liquor Distribution Branch touts the policy as an avenue for businesses to open up new revenue streams and diversify partnerships with manufacturers, such as craft breweries and wineries.

However, there are certain restrictions applicants cannot be mobile (operate from a motor vehicle like a food truck) or target minors. Secondly, anyone serving alcohol must be certified through Serving-It-Right, a self study course focused on respective legal responsibilities.

The province states the new policy builds on another recent change, that one allows “for-profit” businesses to apply for Special Event Permits to serve liquor. That category was previously reserved only for individual and not-for-profit organizations.

So what does this mean for a non-profit Trail venue that is hosting more patrons every year?

The Bailey Theatre is limited to selling wine or beer twice a month. So the theatre manager has to pick and choose which performances to offer bar service, her selection can be somewhat of a gamble because the licence is expensive and what if only a few drinks are sold?

And with a kitchen update and new lounge construction next year, could this new policy expand the beverage menu for every show?

Unfortunately, no.

“This year we looked into getting a liquor primary license and discovered we are not eligible,” explains Nadine Tremblay, guest services manager. “Mostly because we are located in a school, specifically our lounge is in Selkirk College’s kitchen and study hall. We would need our own separate entrance with no doors opening up into classrooms to be eligible; this I understand,” she added. “But it is expensive and a ton more work to apply for special occasion licenses which we do on a regular basis. We are trying to provide a service to our patrons but in doing so, we have to go online and fill out the paperwork, guess the consumption and pay the tax.

Often this part is more expensive than the profits from the bar.

“You are also only allowed a maximum of two licenses a month,” Tremblay clarified. “And because we have more shows sometimes than allowable licenses, we can apply for more (special request). Or we pick and choose which shows get liquor licenses by gauging the amount of patrons coming to the show and their demographics.”

The new laws don’t help the community theatre, but that doesn’t mean Tremblay is calling it a day.

“We will continue to work with them by voicing our concerns as I’m sure many similar venues are doing the same.”