Liquor Policy Consultations with Local Government

Over the next month, the Province will be accepting feedback from local governments on three liquor policy issues: changes to the manufacturer’s endorsements; the parallel process for liquor primary and similar applications; and, policy related to liquor primary clubs. The deadline for feedback is February 5, 2016.

These consultations are based on recommendations made in the Liquor Policy Review Final Report, which was released in January 2014. This Report, which seeks to modernize liquor laws in British Columbia, contains 73 recommendations, all of which were supported by Cabinet. Thus far, 38 of the 73 recommendations have been implemented, with many more coming in 2016.

The following is a summary of the three items for which feedback is requested:

Manufacturer’s Endorsements Proposal

Currently, licensees must have consumption areas that are each separately delineated, making it confusing and difficult for visitors to tour and move through a site if they wish to consume alcohol. The Province would like to increase flexibility by potentially designating the entire portion of the property as one consumption area, allowing the licensee to permit visitors to tour and sample throughout the site. At licensing, the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB) would take nearby residents into consideration when determining the site consumption area. There are five types of areas in particular that the Province will be looking to examine as part of this proposed policy shift:

  1. Picnic Areas: Currently, there is a lack of clarity regarding neighbourhood disturbance criteria. The Province is proposing to allow licensees with “suitable land” to host picnickers and allow for the consumption of alcohol in an area where staff have a line of sight, as a general permission that does not require an application. There would be no amplified sound permitted outdoors, beyond ambient background music.
  2. Tour Area: The Province is proposing removing the separate application for the tour area and permitting tours anywhere within the site consumption area in order meet visitor requests.
  3. Lounge: Currently there is an application process (involving local government input), a delineated area, and a regulation permitting licensees to serve their own products and up to 20% of liquor produced by others. The Province is proposing a parallel application process (to process local government portion concurrently with the provincial portion), making the 20% rule (currently an interim measure) permanent, and requiring a lounge or Special Event Area for amplified sound outside.
  4. Special Event Area (SEA): Much like the lounge criteria, SEA’s are permitted after an application (involving local government input) is approved for an event-based service area. Service of up to 20% of liquor produced by others is allowed, and the consumption area may encompass a large outdoor area (with no capacity limits). The Province is proposing to also move SEA applications to a parallel process (to process local government portion concurrently with the provincial portion), making the 20% rule (currently an interim measure) permanent, requiring a lounge of SEA for amplified sound outside, and a maximum capacity for outdoor events.
  5. Onsite Store: Currently each manufacturer site is allowed one onsite store where only products registered to the manufacturer are permitted to be sold. The market authorization allows for store products to be sold offsite at qualifying markets. The proposed provincial change would still maintain the single store, but would allow temporary points of sale on site (i.e. kiosk to accommodate larger tours). Note: currently, these types of kiosks are permitted off site at markets only.

Local governments are invited to provide any and all feedback related to this issue in any form they see fit.

Parallel Process for Liquor Primary and Similar Applications

Liquor Policy Review (LPR) recommendation #39 states, “Government should consult with UBCM, local governments (LG), 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”. More specifically, applications would go to local government to sign receipt before being submitted to LCLB. This proposed process will apply to the applications for the following:

  • New liquor primaries (LP);
  • LP relocations requiring local government and public input (if a LP is relocating very close by with no increase in capacity or hours, then no input is required);
  • Manufacturer lounge endorsements; and,
  • Manufacturer Special Event Area endorsements.

The Province has released a draft document showing a summary of key changes to the parallel process (and potential impacts on local governments) and the proposed application process.

After consulting this document, local governments are asked to respond to the following questions:

  1. What questions do you have about how the proposed parallel process would work?
  2. What policy or process changes would your local government need to make in order to accommodate this new process?
  3. What additional information and support could LCLB provide local governments to assist with implementation?

Please note that the LCLB has developed informational material and will be consulting with local government staff in early 2016 to support their transition to the new parallel process.

Club Regulation

The Province has recently consulted with all club licensees as part of LPR recommendation #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”. Many club licensees were in support of changes in areas where liquor primary (LP) club licences held more restrictions than basic LP’s, but also wished to maintain privileges they currently hold as clubs (i.e. locker privileges, ‘green-lined’ alternate use spaces).

For those who are unfamiliar, the Province has made information available on how club LP licences differ from basic LP licences.

Given this information, the Province would like to present two options for consideration, and would like local governments to provide feedback on the proposal to convert LP clubs into regular LPs that would be open to the public.

Option 1: Maintain club licences but remove “irritant restrictions” (specific membership and outside catering).

Implications for local governments: although very few clubs expressed interest in opening to the public, some (particularly in small communities) may open their doors regularly to the public creating additional unrestricted LP seats in those communities.

Option 2: Transition clubs to regular LP’s but grandparent their special privileges

Implications for local governments: Same implications as Option #1, plus clubs would be permitted to transfer their licences (currently the licence becomes void if the club ceases to exist). Under this option, the provincial government would consider making the special privileges non-transferable.

The Liquor Policy Working Group, which is co-chaired by UBCM and the Ministry of Small Business, Red Tape Reduction and Responsible for the Liquor Distribution Branch, met in December to discuss these proposed changes. A summary of that discussion is available on UBCM's Community Safety policy page.

Questions or comments on these ongoing consultations may be directed to Bhar Sihota, UBCM Policy Analyst at (604) 270-8226 Ext. 114.

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