Spilled your drink reading this article’s headline title? We have some bad news to report for all-ages shows in BC. Despite some recent progress on policy reform, it appears that our draconian BC liquor laws have just taken us a few steps back by extending regulations into new territory. This change in policy was quietly made into law recently: apparently, occasional all-ages shows are no longer allowed at venues with permanent liquor-primary licenses.
- Time for B.C. to end its draconian laws on alcohol
- Oppressive liquor laws severely impede events and festivals
This means that starting January 15, 2013, there will be no more all-ages shows at the Rickshaw Theatre. The same rule might also apply to the Commodore Ballroom, Vogue Theatre, Wise Club, and Rio Theatre, though we are not exactly sure what kind of license each of these establishments possess.
According to the policy:
“Police, the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB) and communities have identified public safety and enforcement problems in liquor-primary establishments which have been temporarily de-licensed for alternate use where the establishment is essentially carrying on the same business as they are licensed for (e.g. operating as a nightclub) but with all-ages present. Minors attending these events have been found to be consuming liquor either prior to entering or outside the establishment during the course of the event.”
Thus, “alternate use events for liquor-primaries and liquor-primary clubs must not be the same or similar to the licence held by the licensed establishment (e.g. nightclubs may not hold an all-ages nightclub or dance). De-licensing for these types of events is no longer permitted.”
If this angers you as much as it does us, please share this article and consider writing a letter to:
- The main Liquor Board contact: email@example.com
- Karen Ayers (their Assistant Deputy Minister and General Manager, who signed this new policy): Karen.Ayers@gov.bc.ca
- Your local MLA (find their email through http://www.leg.bc.ca/mla/3-1-1.htm)
- Rich Coleman, the BC MLA in charge of liquor: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Bill Bennett, the BC MLA in charge of cultural development: email@example.com
- Maurine Karagianis, the BC NDP critic for liquor: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Spencer Chandra Herbert, the BC NDP critic for arts and culture: email@example.com
Arguments against new draconian BC liquor laws
I’m a BC citizen and arts and culture advocate who is angered and upset by the LCLB’s recent Policy Directive No. 12-09, which prevents liquor primary venues from temporarily de-licensing to host events for people of all ages. I believe the policy directive is not only a horrible example of ageism, but is also misguided and completely unjust.
The policy directive is misguided because it punishes the wrong people. The directive states that “Police, LCLB and communities have identified public safety and enforcement problems in LP establishments which have been temporarily de-licensed for alternate use where the establishment is essentially carrying on the same business as they are licensed for (e.g. operating as a nightclub) but with all-ages present. Minors attending these events have been found to be consuming liquor either prior to entering or outside the establishment during the course of the event.” As stated, the problem is minors drinking PRIOR TO ENTERING or OUTSIDE the establishment, and as such, the crimes of underage and/or outdoor drinking should be dealt with by law enforcement OUTSIDE of the establishment. If minors are caught drinking in a park, or outside of a grocery store, or even at their own home, their entire age bracket is not banned from entering these premises. Instead, the police are called and they prosecute the crime as they see fit, on a case-by-case basis. The same should happen with minors drinking outside of LP establishments.
The policy directive is unjust because it attempts to anticipate crimes that have not yet been committed, and presumes minors are guilty of underage drinking even before they are convicted of that crime. While some people under age 19 may commit the heinous crime of underage and/or outdoor drinking, the vast majority of our underage population are law-abiding citizens. Your policy punishes ALL minors for the behaviour of a few, and is thus very unjust.
The policy directive is ageist because it targets only a specific portion of our population. If some people of a certain race or class or gender or sexuality were caught committing a crime, the legal response would NOT be to ban that entire demographic from entering a nearby facility, because to do so would be horribly racist / classist / sexist / homophobic / etc. It baffles my mind why the same prejudiced response is deemed acceptable when the demographic in question is age. Ageism is just as bad as racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., and it must be stopped.
LCLB and relevant MLAs,
In a city of expensive rents, many music venues cannot run without selling liquor (a guaranteed income). Venues that are solely all-ages are difficult to run financially partly because they cannot depend on liquor sales. So all-ages shows regularly make use of the “regular” venues that are subsidized by liquor. Therefore, policies guiding liquor licenses are directly entwined with all-ages music scenes.
The policy directive 12-09, entitled “Amendments to the policy for temporary changes to all license types and amendments to alternate use policy for liquor primaries (LP) and LP clubs,” was just brought to my attention. I am still digesting it, but would like to know more about the background used to make this change in policy. In the section explaining the reasons for the change, you refer to Police, LCLB and “communities” (which?) as identifying problems with temporarily de-licensed venues—namely, under-age alcohol consumption taking place outside such venues. While it is not difficult to imagine that some under-age drinking is happening, I presume you have based your policy decisions on more than simply identification.
If your concern is to reduce under-age drinking, I am certain that will not accomplish this to any degree by removing venues that can host all-ages shows. I can say, having been “under-age” at one point, and seeing it now from the “other side,” that under-age drinking is independent of official music venues; under-age drinkers don’t drink just because they’re going to a music show at a temporarily de-licensed venue. If you are claiming a causal link whereby temporary de-licensing actually promotes under-age drinking, then I would like to review the studies you’ve used to make this claim; please forward me the studies that show that removing temporary de-licensing actively reduces under-age drinking.
My broader concern is that a few under-age people who drink outside these temporary venues are being equated with a whole group of diverse under-age people who are not drinking, and if this equation is not kept in check, it risks becoming a form of ageism—that because a person is under 19, they will engage in illegal activity. A perhaps more practical concern is that taking away physical spaces for all-age shows means forcing us underground into even more physically dangerous situations than some under-age drinkers outside a safe legal venue.
I look forward to learning more about this issue by reading the studies you used as background.
Written by The Safe Amplification Site Society, a non-profit society dedicated to establishing a permanent all-ages space for music and other arts events in Vancouver. Learn more and support their cause by visiting their website (www.safeamp.org) and following them on Twitter (@SafeAmp).
Featured image credit: Dr. House Cleaning