Province to undertake complete review of B.C.'s draconian liquor laws

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It is no secret that British Columbia has some of the most draconian and restrictive liquor laws in the country, with many laws many decades old and some even dating as far as back as the prohibition era that began in 1917. However, there may be a glimmer of hope as the provincial government will be undertaking a comprehensive review of B.C.’s liquor laws that could lead to major reform.

The Ministry of Justice will be calling upon the province’s residents and its 10,000 liquor license holders and liquor agency stores to provide feedback on the grossly outdated and overly restrictive liquor laws that prevent British Columbians from enjoying alcohol in a responsible yet flexible manner. The Ministry itself has admittedly also termed the laws as “outdated” and “inefficient.”

“Right now, some of B.C.’s liquor laws go back many years. In concert with industry and citizens, we are looking to make practical and responsible changes which promote consumer convenience and economic growth in the province, with a strong eye to maintaining public safety and protecting the health of our citizens,” said Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton.

“Once the public consultation process begins in September, British Columbians can let us know how they would like to see B.C.’s liquor laws reformed,” she added.

Parliamentary Secretary for Liquor Policy Reform John Yap also confirmed the need for such a review and for logical changes to occur. “I look forward to working with industry representatives, health and public-safety advocates and engaging directly with the public online as we look for common sense ways to modernize our liquor laws in this province,” he said.

A website for the liquor policy review will be launched in September and your input will be important for the strong push that will be needed for real and sweeping changes of our ridiculous liquor laws that excessively restrict our lifestyle as a means of maintaining the peace.

The comprehensive review will examine every aspect: liquor retail and distribution, the availability of liquor, the manufacturing and transportation process, the location of legal consumption, the presence of minors in licensed areas, laws over establishments, special events and festivals, the licensing processes, and public health and safety.

Some of these archaic laws include: no happy hours for restaurants and pubs, complex Special Occasion License policies that require alcohol served at an event to be purchased from a government liquor store, no alcohol at beaches and parks even though it is common in many other countries, no minors in pubs that serve food during daytime hours even if they are accompanied by their parents, no wines and local liquor sold at farmers’ markets, and overly lengthy and complex procedures for acquiring a liquor-primary liquor license (bars and nightclubs) or a food-primary liquor license (restaurants that serve alcohol).

The list goes on, and believe it or not it is illegal for liquor stores to sell newspapers but it is perfectly acceptable to sell lottery tickets.

While such ridiculous laws date many decades back, the problem inherently lies with the bureaucrats who run B.C.’s Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB) and continue mandating new draconian liquor policies. It is true that some steps have been taken towards the right direction such as with the recent legalization of bringing your own bottle of wine to a restaurant, which was made possible only through immense campaigning by the restaurant industry and strong political will.

However, just as some overreaching liquor laws were repealed another draconian law was made to replace it. In January 2013, the LCLB quietly made in the law that occasional all-ages shows would no longer be allowed at venues with liquor-primary licenses. That meant bars and nightclubs would no longer be allowed to temporarily delicense their venues for nighttime all-ages events such as concerts, and for some reason even the participating artists and performers would have to be 19 years of age.

You might be wondering what the reasoning was behind this all-ages ban at these delicensed venues. As ridiculous as it may sound, and this is true, the law was enacted almost immediately with no warning because the LCLB was concerned that minors were consuming alcohol before entering the all-ages event venue.

With that kind of absurd reasoning, you have to start wondering where else we should we ban minors from entering because it could apply to anywhere if we are that overly concerned about minors consuming alcohol.

This is not a question that is often asked but sometimes you have to wonder whether the government’s LCLB bureaucrats are making regulations and procedures much harder than it needs to be in order to protect their position of power and the expensive existence of the LCLB.

Regardless, given that this comprehensive review is spearheaded by the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General Suzanne Anton, there is every possibility that this could lead to lead to the sweeping liquor law changes that British Columbians deserve and need (from one of my previous articles):

Relative to the many nations (particularly in Western Europe) that have built a significantly more mature societal view of alcohol consumption, responsible drinking is not taught in B.C. and such a societal norm and consensus can only be taught through a pragmatic openness and enlightenment towards the very perception of alcohol.

A society that shows it can responsibly enjoy alcohol, without treating it as some pariah or taboo, is also a sign of a mature society. However, more often than not, because of the actions of a very small minority of people (whether it be drunk drivers or the binge drinkers who instigated the 2011 Stanley Cup Riot or even the overreaching campaigns of modern prohibitionists who themselves do not understand alcohol and the issues), the rest of the population suffers from the lack of opportunity for mature enjoyment.

A more mature view and open practice to responsible drinking would significantly decrease the number of cases of “binge drinking.” To make alcohol a taboo implies that drinking should be done secretly and rarely.

 

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Kenneth Chan Deputy Editor & Social Media Manager at Vancity Buzz. He covers stories pertaining to local architecture, urban issues, politics, business, retail, economic development, transportation, infrastructure, and anything else 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]vancitybuzz.com
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