Happy Hour coming to B.C. this summer, liquor outlets in grocery stores by early-2015

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BC Liquor Store Liquor Laws Grocery Stores

The provincial government has announced its planned implementation timeline for reforming B.C.’s liquor laws based on the findings from the B.C. Liquor Policy Review.

Among the highlights are the allowance of Happy Hour at establishments and the sale of liquor at farmers’ markets by this summer.

In addition, liquor stores within grocery stores will be allowed by early-2015. However, the number of such licenses for store-within-store liquor outlets will be limited.

All three major changes to the liquor laws were first announced in December 2013.

One new addition will also create a two-part model for the sale of liquor at grocery stores instead of the previously announced single model. In addition to store-within-store liquor outlets, the new flexible laws will allow for the retail of VQA wine in a limited number of grocery stores. Under this model, VQA wine will be permitted to be sold off designated shelves within the store, and purchased at designated check-out tills.

Work continues to determine further details around this two-part model and to clearly define “grocery store.” However, as recommended by Parliamentary Secretary for Liquor Policy Reform John Yap, convenience stores will not be included in this definition and the current moratorium on the number of private liquor stores will remain in place.

Artist renderings of what B.C.’s new two-part grocery model could look like:

“Store-within-a-store” model – with a connecting entrance, same-cart shopping and separate cashiers.
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“Store-within-a-store” model – with an open entrance, same-cart shopping and separate cashiers.
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See below for the full list of liquor law changes and the timeline of reform implementation:

Spring/Summer 2014

  • Permit B.C. liquor manufacturers to offer products for sample and sale at temporary off-site retail locations (e.g., farmers’ markets), with appropriate conditions. The decision about whether to allow vintners, brewers and distillers to showcase their products at a particular location will be left to the location management (e.g., farmers’ market association) (recommendation 31).
  • Allow patrons to buy bottles of liquor to take home that are showcased at festivals or competitions. Consider amending Special Occasion Licences (SOLs) issued to festivals and competitions, or allow BC Liquor or private retail stores to operate a temporary store on site as the means to provide for these sales (recommendation 32).
  • Permit licensees to offer time-limited drink specials (e.g., happy hours), provided the price is not below a prescribed minimum consistent with those advocated by health advocates (recommendation 16).
  • Allow hosts to serve UBrew/UVin or homemade beer or wine at SOL events (e.g. weddings, family reunions) (recommendation 53).
  • Permit licensees to store liquor in secure, off-site locations, subject to notifying the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (recommendation 60).
  • Allow individual establishments that are part of a larger company (e.g., chain outlets) to transfer small amounts of liquor between locations (recommendation 61).
  • Permit the owners and family members of UBrews and UVins to own other liquor-related establishments (recommendation 70).

Fall 2014:

  • Provide regulatory authority for the LCLB to require social responsibility public education material to be posted in all licensed establishments and liquor stores (recommendation 4).
  • Expand and enhance Serving it Right (SIR), the provincial government’s responsible beverage service program (recommendation 7).
  • Due to the varying size and focus of licensed establishments, consideration should be given to how different types of penalties (e.g. a suspension vs. a monetary penalty) may impact a licensee and staff (recommendation 12).
  • Manufacturers should be able to establish low-risk tasting venues such as a picnic area as part of their existing licence without the need to apply for a specific endorsement. Government should work with industry, local government and First Nations to increase flexibility for tasting options for manufacturers while being sensitive to potential negative impacts, such as noise, on the community (recommendation 27).
  • Allow manufacturers to offer patrons liquor that was not produced on site (e.g., a winery could sell a beer to a visitor) (recommendation 28).
  • Provide a more streamlined and time-sensitive application process to allow facilities such as ski hills and golf courses to temporarily extend their licensed area to another part of the property (e.g., a patio near a ski-hill gondola lift or a temporary patio near a golf clubhouse) (recommendation 62).

Winter 2015:

  • The Province should develop and implement a retail model that meets consumer demands for more convenience by permitting the sale of liquor in grocery stores. Government should continue to restrict the total number of retail outlets and require separation of grocery products and liquor. This reflects the views of health and safety advocates and the acknowledged safety benefits of restricting minors’ access to liquor (recommendation 19).

Fall 2015:

  • Permit hobby brewers and vintners to apply for a SOL to host competition events, allowing homemade beers and wines to be sampled by both judges and the public (recommendation 50).

 Featured Image: Alcohol pouring via Shutterstock

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