Businesses currently operating licensed establishments in British Columbia, or considering purchasing a going concern, should take note of the following significant changes to British Columbia’s liquor laws into force in January, 2017:
New policy on “dormant” licences
Currently in British Columbia there are no minimum use requirements for liquor licences. That means a licensee may allow its establishment to become “dormant” – by keeping its licence in good standing, but for any number of reasons not operating the affiliated bar or restaurant. Generally speaking licences go dormant during extensive renovations, after fires or during times of financial stress.
After January 23, 2017 when the new Liquor Control and Licensing Act comes into force that will change: licences will be cancelled after two years of inactivity unless there has been a fire or other catastrophe beyond the licensee’s control and the required renovations take longer than two years.
In the case of extensive renovations that take longer than two years, the branch will require evidence that renovation work is progressing before approving an extension to the dormancy. Licensees will also be required to notify the branch when they transition in and out of dormancy.
All licences that are currently dormant have until January 22, 2019 to restart operations, unless they qualify for an extension to dormancy status.
Judicial reviews must be commenced within 30 days of a decision by the general manager
Currently if your licensed establishment receives an adverse decision from the general manager of the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch there is no time limit on your ability to bring a judicial review of that decision. After January 23, 2017 if your establishment intends to have a decision of the Branch judicially reviewed it must do so within 30 days of receiving the decision, including an enforcement or reconsideration order.
Compliance and enforcement against former licensees
Presently the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch may take enforcement action against current licensees, and may also take action against special occasion licensees for up to six months after the special occasion licence expires. Under the new Act the Branch will be able to take enforcement action against a former licensee for up to six months after they ceased to be the licensee.
This means that former licensees who have sold their interest in a licensed establishment may still be held liable for breaches of the Act even after they relinquished control of the business.
If you or your business needs assistance navigating British Columbia’s liquor laws and regulations, contact Dan Coles or one of the other lawyers in Owen Bird’s Food & Beverage practice group.
You can also find more information about food and hospitality law at http://www.bcliquorlaw.com/