Province ditches “antiquated licensing rules”

By David F. Rooney

The provincial government has reacted to complaints about what Premier Christy Clark called “antiquated licensing rules” by establishing new dining options for B.C. families.

Emma Kirkland, general manager of the Powder Springs Inn, was one of the people complaining about the old restaurant licensing rules.

“This is a really positive development,” she said after learning of the announcement on Tuesday.

Currently, restaurants, pubs, bars and establishments like those operated by the Royal Canadian Legion have either a food primary licence or a liquor primary licence. Food primary licences entitle establishments to allow minors on the premises as long as  — though they may sell alcohol — the sale of food is the main business. Liquor primary licences allow establishments to sell beer, wine and hard liquor as their main attraction. They can also sell food, but minors are not allowed on their premises.

The Last Drop originally had a food-primary licence that allowed minors to be in the establishment as long as the main things being served were food items. This allowed the hotel to present a more European-style experience. (Europeans do not react with horror at the notion of a child accompanying its parents or guardians to a drinking establishment where food is also served.) Eventually, though, the Inn had to switch back to a liquor-primary licence.

Now Kirkland said the establishment will once again apply for a new license.

“To create more consumer convenience and give businesses more flexibility to grow, government will be introducing happy hour to BC,” Christy said as she announced the changes. “To make sure liquor rules better reflect how British Columbians live, families soon will have the freedom to eat together in B.C.’s pubs, legions and restaurants. To enhance health and public safety, the Province also will improve and expand B.C.’s responsible beverage service program, Serving it Right (SIR).

“These changes are about updating antiquated licensing rules to reflect what British Columbians actually want, while continuing to protect public safety. Families should be able to dine together in their neighbourhood pub. Consumers should be free to order whatever they want in a restaurant. These are exactly the kind of common-sense changes to BC’s liquor laws we promised to make — and we’re keeping that promise.”

None of this, however, will take place until the spring.

“It’s still great news but it means we’ll have another season of having to explain things to our European clients,” Kirkland said.

Please click here to read The Current’s original 2011 story on this issue and the comments it spawned.