Whether your business is currently active in the hospitality industry, or you are considering entering this dynamic and growing sector, you should take notice of the following changes to British Columbia’s liquor laws coming into force in 2017
Any business will be able to apply for a liquor licence
The long-standing policy in British Columbia has been that only businesses that are “primarily engaged in hospitality, entertainment or beverage service” can apply for a liquor primary licence – on January 23, 2017 when the new Liquor Control and Licensing Act comes into force that will change. Beginning in January any business, except those that operate in a motor vehicle or are primarily directed at minors, can apply for a liquor primary licence.
This means that if you own or operate a business that traditionally was not eligible to be licensed to serve alcohol, such as a spa or hair salon, art gallery or book store, you will be eligible to obtain a liquor primary licence (which means you can serve liquor without installing a commercial kitchen). For owners and operators this change is an opportunity for exciting new business opportunities and revenue streams, while for patrons it represents a common sense approach to the responsible access and enjoyment of alcoholic beverages.
These new licensed areas can overlap with all or part of the existing business, or they can be adjacent to the primary business. The Liquor Control and Licensing Branch will determine whether minors should be permitted in the liquor primary establishment when the primary business is operating.
Free drinks on arrival at hotels and resorts
Under the current rules, liquor service at hotels and resorts with liquor primary licences is restricted to within the designated service area (as set out in the licence). Beginning in January, 2017 hotels and resorts can (and should!) offer guests as they check in an alcoholic beverage in the reception area. The guests will be permitted to consume the beverage in the reception area, or carry it on to their room.
In the New Year hotel guests will also be permitted to take unfinished alcoholic beverages from the lobby bar or restaurant to their room to drink.
Liquor primary licenses able to relocate anywhere in BC
Are you seeing opportunities in the hospitality sector outside of your current market? Starting in the New Year the branch will allow liquor primary licensees to relocate anywhere in the province, whereas previously liquor primaries could only relocate “within their community or reasonably close to their current location.”
Note that the proposed relocation will still be subject to a local government/First Nation community input process for the new location. A liquor primary licence with an off-sales endorsement will only be permitted to keep the endorsement if the new location complies with the off-sales distance criteria of being 30 km from the nearest liquor retail outlet.
If you or your business need 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/.