Liquor Policy Working Group Update

On October 24, 2016, the Local Government Working Group on Liquor Policy, co-chaired by UBCM and the Province, met to discuss recent changes in provincial liquor policy, including the timeline for implementing the remaining Liquor Policy Review (LPR) recommendations and the new Liquor Control and Licensing Act.

The Local Government Working Group on Liquor Policy is the forum created for consultation and communication between the Province and local governments with respect to changes in liquor policy. Since the release of the Liquor Policy Review Final Report in January 2014, the Province has implemented 48 of the 73 recommendations included in the report, which seeks to modernize liquor laws in British Columbia.

For the reference of UBCM members, the Working Group’s discussions are summarized below.

Parallel Process: This process allows local government and the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB) to simultaneously consider applications for liquor primaries, manufacturing lounges and special event areas. Local governments were provided an opportunity to provide feedback on this issue during the past year.

Delegation Authority: Local governments may now create bylaws that delegate specific staff members to provide input on all or some types of liquor licensing applications that would otherwise require a resolution. Bylaws must comply with section 40 of the Liquor Control and Licensing Act. Those with such bylaws are asked to provide a copy to the LCLB.

Criteria for Commenting on Applications: For all application types, the list of factors that local governments must comment on has been reduced to the impact of noise on the community in the immediate vicinity of the establishment; the impact on the community if the application is approved; and, for a food primary, whether the amendment results in the establishment being operated in a manner that is contrary to its primary purpose.

Local Government Public Input Process: A local government or First Nation wanting to comment on an application no longer has the option of opting out of conducting a public input process unless the applicant’s proposed establishment is in a remote area with no nearby residents. Local governments continue to have the option to opt out of commenting on applications.

Liquor Primary Applications by a Local Government: If a local government or First Nation is applying for a liquor primary licence, the LCLB will conduct public input and consider the regulatory criteria, with the LG or FN no longer asked to provide a resolution. This will potentially address conflict of interest issues with local governments and First Nations.

Picnic Areas: Any manufacturer, rural or urban, may apply for a picnic area where patrons can consume liquor but no service is offered, whereas previously only large rural/agricultural properties were eligible for this type of activity. Picnic areas have a capacity limitation, must be vacated one half hour after dusk, and are not permitted to have amplified sound.

Liquor Licence Applicants: Previously, only businesses primarily engaged in liquor service, entertainment or hospitality could apply for a licence. Under new rules, any business is able to apply for a liquor primary licence (except for motor vehicles and businesses primarily directed at minors) but would still be subject to local government and public input and zoning restrictions. Food primary establishments are now permitted to operate without a focus on food in the service area, as long as there is no liquor service at that time.

Duel Food Primary and Liquor Primary Licensing: Food primary establishments may now apply for a liquor primary licence at the same location, and operate as a bar or nightclub after a certain hour. Liquor primary establishments may apply for a food primary licence at the same location, allowing them to operate as a restaurant during specific hours and permit minors to enter. Both licence changes are subject to standard application rules, including LG/FN and public input.

Extending Hours of Liquor Service: In “exceptional” circumstances, licensees may apply to the LCLB to request branch approval to serve liquor at their establishment outside the regular hours. What constitutes “exceptional” has not been established, and will be up to the LCLB to determine based in part on the rationale provided by the licensee.

More detailed information is available regarding these issues and upcoming changes, including a local government Q&A document provided by the Province.

The Local Government Working Group on Liquor Policy welcomes local government feedback on the matters discussed above or any aspect of liquor policy in British Columbia. Questions or comments may be directed to Bhar Sihota, UBCM Policy Analyst.

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