Revamped liquor laws have wide-ranging impact

The new liquor law recommendations include sales in grocery stores, allowing children into bars, and opening up beer gardens in festivals.

An update to B.C.’s liquor laws has one local event organizer sitting on the fence about what the changes might mean to the younger generation.

Last week, the province announced its support of 73 recommendations to modernize rules around liquor licensing that MLA and Parlimentary Secretary John Yap served up for review in December.

Right out of the gate, special events will have less red tape attached to liquor licence applications and venues such as sports tournaments and music festivals will no longer have to worry about keeping children out of the beer gardens.

The recommendation states that minors, if accompanied by a parent or guardian, should be permitted in certain liquor-primary establishments until a reasonable time.

“It took some fancy footwork to obtain our liquor licence because they don’t normally give one to children’s events,” said Marjorie Kidd, a Rosslander who spearheaded the city’s Children Festival and Benefit concert last fall. “It was tricky so as an event organizer it’s awesome to make the process easier.”

As a parent, Kidd gave a mixed review on the new rule that beer gardens no longer need to be cordoned off and kids will be around to roam freely within areas that alcohol is openly served.

“I don’t see that it is much different than having a drink in a family restaurant with your kids beside you,” she said.

“But there is heavy drinking in beer gardens and things can get quite rowdy and I’m not so sure that is a good thing for kids to be around,” continued Kidd. “There seems to be a lot of hoopla about a law that was already working well. But I guess time will tell how harmful this might be for kids whose parents choose to overindulge.”

To date, the venues could only serve beer, wine or coolers, but new liquor regulations allow mixed-spirit drink choices to be served in all public areas including arenas and stadiums.

How this will affect hockey games and tournaments or Silver City Days celebrations in the Trail Memorial Centre is not certain, but one Trail councillor does toast the changes.

“This is a good thing because it will certainly make things easier,” said Coun. Rick Georgetti. “I think it’s a great idea to have a glass of wine with your pasta at the sidewalk cafe and not worry about where your kids are.”

In addition to beer garden venues, parents will also have the option to bring children into the local pub to join in a bite, however certain rules still apply and are at the discretion of the Liquor Control Licencing Board (LCLB).

According the review, for those establishments currently offering gaming options, the LCLB retains the authority to approve or deny whether minors are allowed based on that minor’s potential access to gaming.

At one local bar and eatery, the new rules will not apply to his establishment because he has no plans to divide the premises into one area for gaming, and the other, for family dining.

“We will keep our lottery because we do well with our adult clientele right now,” said Jeff Boag, proprietor of the Arlington Bar & Grill. “I don’t see any reason to change because we have a lot of business people who come in for lunch and may not want kids in here,” he said.

However, the return of “happy hour” is a change Boag will consider further down the road.

For years, the province’s liquor licences haven’t allowed the lowering of booze prices during certain hours of the day, but the new regulations do allow liquor price variances.

“Right now when we open up we charge “x” amount of dollars for alcohol,” explained Boag. “And we have to keep it that way all day,” he said. “That change is a good thing. Further down the road, depending on what other places do, we will be definitely looking at that option.”

Another aspect to Yap’s review includes making liquor available in grocery stores.

By the end of his public consultations, Yap said that 75 per cent of respondents were in favour of this option, although how a new policy will roll out is not yet clear.

“It’s too early to say what the rules will be,” said David Ferraro of Ferraro Foods. “I have read that it will happen slowly to protect liquor stores and private liquor store sales,” he said. “It’s too early to comment for certain yet, but what I will say is I never thought I would see the day they would even talk about this.”