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VPS and bar owners welcome proposed changes to liquor laws

Attorney General Suzanne Anton says details need to be worked out before implementation

While the proposed changes to BC's liquor laws are “positive overall,” the PumpJack's Vince Marino says bar owners need clarity about implementation. Credit: James Loewen

While the Vancouver Pride Society and owners of gay bars welcome the BC government’s recent announcement about proposed changes to antiquated liquor laws, they say more details are needed to determine how they will be implemented.

“I think it’s definitely modernization; I think overall it’s a good step forward, but we still need to see details of how it will unfold through legislation,” says Vince Marino, owner of the Junction and PumpJack Pubs in Davie Village.

The province announced its support for all 73 recommendations of the BC Liquor Policy Review Jan 31. Many of the recommendations require significant policy work and planning, the report states.

If the recommendations are passed, they would bring an end to fenced beer gardens, simplify the process of obtaining a special-occasion licence (SOL), permit the sale of spirit-based drinks at sporting events and concerts, allow liquor to be sold in grocery stores, and permit minors entry into bars when they are accompanied by an adult.

Marino says he supports the recommendations. “It’s embarrassing to have to tell [adults with children] to leave,” he says. “People may be with their kids and they stop in at Junction, and they want to sit on the patio and they just can’t.”

But while the changes are “positive overall,” Marino says bar owners need clarity about implementation.

Ray Lam, general manager of the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS), says he is happy with the changes, especially the fenceless-beer-garden recommendation. “It means that we can potentially open up the street and move forward in the direction that we’re moving,” he notes.

“It’s definitely great news, but we’re still in the very early stages,” he says, adding that he is concerned about when the SOL changes will take affect and whether the VPS will be able to apply for the licensing for the annual Davie Street Dance Party in time for Pride.

Lam says he contacted the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch recently to inquire about the application process and was told it was too early to announce changes.

Calls to the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch were not returned by press time.

Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton says there are details that need to be worked out before all the recommendations can be implemented. However, she notes that she is aiming to make legislative amendments at "the earliest opportunity."

“We promised British Columbians we would overhaul BC’s outdated liquor laws, and we are keeping that promise,” Anton said in a statement. “As we release the final report today, you’ll see 73 wide-ranging reforms that will positively affect organizations — from local community festivals to music concerts, from hockey games to hotels — in communities all across BC.”

John Yap, parliamentary secretary for Liquor Policy Reform, says the recommendations stem from input received from British Columbians, festival organizers, non-profit organizations and businesses during a policy review.