Outrage over new draconian BC liquor laws: all-ages shows banned at venues with liquor licenses

Draconian BC Liquor Laws

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.


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:

– Karen Ayers (their Assistant Deputy Minister and General Manager, who signed this new policy):

– Your local MLA (find their email through

– Rich Coleman, the BC MLA in charge of liquor:

– Bill Bennett, the BC MLA in charge of cultural development:

– Maurine Karagianis, the BC NDP critic for liquor:

– Spencer Chandra Herbert, the BC NDP critic for arts and culture:


Arguments against new draconian BC liquor laws


Letter 1:


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.


Letter 2:

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 ( and following them on Twitter (@SafeAmp).

Featured image credit: Dr. House Cleaning

About the author

Author Avatar
Kenneth Chan is Vancity Buzz's Deputy Editor and Social Media Manager. He covers stories pertaining to local architecture, urban issues, business, retail, economic development, infrastructure, politics or anything that makes a difference in the lives of Vancouverites. Kenneth is also a Co-Founder of New Year's Eve Vancouver. Connect with him at kenneth[at]

Around the Web

Facebook Conversations



    They should just ban all the LGs & LBs.

  • Trev

    How can our liquor laws be so stupid? The only problem with underage drinking at these shows is kids drinking OUTSIDE the venue from a pop bottle full of vodka. I love that I can go to the casino get drunk and blow my life savings at a hand of black jack or go downtown and shoot up heroin in a safe environment but if I want to see an up and coming band that a bar wont take a chance booking or sit in a restaurant and play video games I am SOL.Something needs to change this is ridiculous.

  • Vancouverite

    You should check out and give the government your thoughts on this issue.

  • John Q Broke

    So done with this piece of sh*t city.

  • Maggy Kitty

    This actually hurts my soul.

  • Claptix

    Why not spend some time and worry about something that really matters, like people without food or homes.

  • Wilmount Engineering

    Wrote this letter to all of the above…

    Dear BC Liquor Control and Licensing,


    I’m a responsible adult of 31 who likes to enjoy the
    occasional alcoholic beverage and am growing more and more angry about the
    direction your licensing laws are taking our culture and society.  The
    latest one,
    is just another thorn in our ability to have fun public all ages events and
    will certainly drive away some events and make it harder for businesses with
    liquor licenses to host events and thus exist as a venue period.


    The fact is, liquor laws don’t just affect our bars and
    event venues, they affect our lifestyle and culture.  This article by the
    BBC in the UK is a good look at how enforcing more drinking laws doesn’t work
    and creates a culture where youth rebel and drink more, not less.


    These types of laws are a big reason why some people call
    Vancouver the “no fun city”, and it makes me sad because it should be the exact
    opposite.  If you go to a place like France, Italy or other places in
    Europe, you can see that a healthy respect for alcohol is taught at a young age
    as it is not shunned as an evil thing to do.  Thus, they don’t have big
    problems with underage drinking and at the same time are able to sustain a
    culture of fun, a community that isn’t paranoid about drinking and that has
    many public events where the sense of personal responsibility and freedom is
    alive and well.


    Bottom line, your laws are making me want to consider moving
    from this beautiful place I’ve called home for 31 years, and I don’t want to do


    I ask you to please consider revoking this law, and consider
    helping BC become more forward thinking with respect to alcohol and how we
    teach responsible drinking, not the opposite.


    Best regards,

    Erik Weimer

  • Craycray

    Who the hell cares? 

    As older people, we don’t have to hear annoying screams and crazy ass girls go crazy.
    More for us.

  • Trensetta Design

    Here is my letter, which I sent to all of the above:

    Dear Mr. Coleman and associates in liquor laws / policies. I am very disapointed in the new policy that states that occasional all ages shows are no longer allowed to be held at venues with permanent liquor licences.Why are you punishing the entire under age population for a few teens pre drinking before attending shows?Do you actually think this is going to stop teens from drinking? Do you know what year it is?  If a teen wants to drink a few before a show, smoke a joint, snort a line of cocaine or pop ecstasy, they will do it regardless of which venue the show is in. They don’t care about your laws. As a teen my friends and I drank a few coolers and went to our school dances, which was an unlicensed venue. We would also get a boot and drink in parks since there where not many event options for us. Another unlicensed place. We never hurt anyone, or ourselves. Our parents taught us that alcohol can be dangerous and that we should drink responsibly since they knew that telling us not to drink at all wasn’t going to do anything to stop us. Why do you want to make it harder for the great people who take care of this demographic and introduce them to arts, culture and entertainment to find venues and plan events? Why punish the venues? Why not focus on educating teens on the dangers and health risks of drinking, and teach them that if they do choose to drink, to make responsible choices about the amount they consume. Instead of taking away from their fun and activity options, why not empower them to make smart choices for themselves. The fact is, liquor laws don’t just affect our bars and event venues, they affect our lifestyle and culture.  This article by the BBC in the UK is a good look at how enforcing more drinking laws doesn’t work and creates a culture where youth rebel and drink more, not less., while I am here, a few more things:It’s super lame that adults can’t have a beer or a few at the beach or outdoor bbq. People should be allowed to drink in public. Do you think we are all buffoons who can’t handle our liquor?It’s super lame that we pay like 600% percent mark ups on liquor in BC. Why they heck is it soooo expensive here? It’s ridiculous, really. It’s not stopping us from drinking, and the tax money sure isn’t being put to good use. I guess BC really does stand for BRING CASH. It’s super lame that we the tax payers have to put up with your backwards thinking logic and our money goes to you planning and introducing primitive policies. If their is one thing you are really good at, it’s being ridiculous. Bravo! This is 2013. Empower the people, young and old to make wise decisions about what they put in their bodies. They are OUR bodies, not yours. These are OUR lives, not yours. If you care so much, educate us, do not strip us of rights. Stop being agist and punishing people before they commit a crime, and please stop treating us like we are morons who can’t make smart decisions on our own. I wish you enlightenment and foresight to make better policies in 2013 and beyond. Penelope Sloan

  • BC Renaissance Fest

    Instad of leaving a lengthy comment allow me to share a link where there are plenty of lengthy comments and a chance to help us out.

  • Marvin

    Just fucking NO. Not cool. This is not a good law whatsoever.
    Remove it.

  • Datis

    Our youth matter. Yes, many teenagers may be showing up to these shows drunk but regardless of the event and regardless of the venue they’d still be drinking. Rather than being drunk in a contained environment with security, they’d be sitting in a dark parking lot in the cold. It’s the establishments responsibility to keep the people who are clearly drunk out and they do make a good effort to do so. 

  • Sob

    Niggga f**k yo mean mug

  • Pietro

     Many things matter, Claptix. We should address everything that matters to us. A comment like this one you’ve made only serves to discourage us from acting on what we’re passionate about. Just because we pay attention to this issue does not mean we don’t pay attention to other issues like “people without food or homes”. Furthermore, a broader perspective on the situation shows that the roots of many of these problems are similar and can be acted upon in solidarity–that the control of youth by ageist policies are done in the same spirit as policies that control “people without food or homes”. So by saying we *should only focus* on a small section of the problem, like you are asking us to do, we stand even less of a chance of changing anything. Don’t you think?

  • Jon
  • Stanley Michael

    Before they get to
    legalize liquor banning they must scrutinize it well, Many would be
    angry of this especially those drinkers. Events or celebrations cannot be
    complete without tossing of a drink thus sometimes we need beverages.California liquor
    are good and concern on the safety and protection but maybe the
    authority can be a little flexible in it.

  • Of Legal age.

    I’m actually quite happy about this. I don’t see what all the fuss is about. The only people I can imagine getting upset about this law are minors . No more kiddies at shows I want to go to and also, no more de-licensing at bars. Win-win.