Liquor Policy Working Group Update

On June 26, 2017, 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 updates and feedback from local governments regarding recent policy changes made as part of the Liquor Policy Review (LPR).

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 66 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.

Liquor Primary Parallel Application Process

Provincial representatives requested updates and feedback on this recent policy change that allows applicants for liquor primaries, manufacturer lounges and special event areas to simultaneously apply to local governments and the Province. Members were generally pleased with the results of this policy change, which previously required provincial review before an application was reviewed by the affected local government.

Providing Food or Liquor Primary Licences to Other Businesses

Previously, only businesses focused on liquor service, entertainment or hospitality could apply for a liquor primary licence. A spa in Prince George is the first to receive a liquor primary licence since the policy changed, with any business (with the exception of businesses operated within a motor vehicle and those directed at or frequented by minors) now able to apply for a liquor primary licence. Other local governments have received inquiries, with applicants unable or unwilling to complete the process for a number of reasons, including an inability to meet certain local requirements (e.g. zoning).

Delegation of Authority (Council to Staff)

Another recent policy change allows councils to delegate authority to staff to provide comments on some or all types of liquor licensing applications that would otherwise require a resolution. No Working Group members had yet to utilize this new option, although some expected that small impact applications would be delegated to staff in the near future to ease a council’s workload.

Permanent Licences for Large Outdoor Spaces

The Province has recently been approached by a business seeking a liquor licence for a very large, event-driven, outdoor space. Normally, events held at this type of venue would require a special event permit; however, the applicant wishes to apply for a permanent liquor primary licence. The Working Group discussed limiting the number of events on an annual basis, advance notification of events and having only one licensee responsible for events at a venue. The Province will conduct further research into this request.

Picnic Area Liquor Service

There were also changes to policy regarding manufacturer picnic areas, where liquor can be consumed, but no liquor service is permitted. Members were generally pleased with the 30 person limit imposed by the Province, with one member indicating his local building inspector was sometimes uncomfortable providing approvals to places that aren’t buildings. No other issues were identified.

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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