BC Liquor License Compliance for Pubs and LRS (Licensee Retail Stores) in Vancouver and BC

Most BC liquor licensees, whether pubs or LRS establishments, have experienced that most unfortunate confluence of circumstances: a sudden rush of guests (many waiting to be seated), all tills ringing busily, and, of course (as Murphy’ s Law would have it), a visit from your BC Liquor Inspector. It seems that bad luck has put the inspector at your door at this precise moment as some kind of cruel test of your capacity for stress.

This inevitable happenstance is enough to make any BC publican or retail liquor licensee weak in the knees and more than a little anxious. The fact is, if you are in the business of selling liquor in BC for long enough, it will happen to you. Knowing this, you have ample opportunity to prepare, not only for the inevitable, badly-timed visit, but for ongoing BC Liquor License compliance in general.

Don’t panic! Rising Tide Consultants, your BC liquor license experts, has a plan that will help.

“I’ve been too busy” won’t cut it

It is common for busy BC pubs or liquor retailers to receive their British Columbia liquor licenses, understand and attend to compliance obligations consistently in the beginning, then become entrenched in the daily business of running a business. Like many, well-meaning, and otherwise responsible people, you may find yourself bogged down by day-to-day operations, which consume your thoughts, energy and time. Before you know it, months have passed without you giving much thought to liquor license compliance.

Remember, being in compliance isn’t something you check off on a list once and then forget about. Compliance is an ongoing duty with many small details, and thus the potential for many small slips. These small slips, left uncorrected, tend to snowball, until collectively they become a large problem, rolling downhill fast.

BC Liquor License compliance inspectors are not the enemy, they are good people like you and I, tasked with ensuring that your establishment is complaint with BC Liquor Laws, so that you, your staff, and the public are safe. You were granted a license that comes with very specific obligations — rules that you have to live by daily, not just when it’s convenient. The growing snowball of compliance slips mentioned above, could stop your business in its tracks — not so good for you or your employees. You could be fined, or worse, your operation could face temporary closure until you are in compliance.

This nightmare on pub street doesn’t have to happen. By following an easily implemented and ongoing plan, you can keep your compliance worries at bay. Follow it, and when the BC Liquor Inspector does visit, you’ll greet them with confidence knowing your establishment and your team is operating to the best of its ability.

BC Liquor License Compliance Plan


Step One

Always have your documents in order. Keep them in a large binder that is easily accessed.  In it, place the following:

  • A copy of your most recent BC Liquor license;
  • A colour copy of your approved Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB) floor plan including copies of approval letters from the LCLB for any pending changes to your business;
  • A list of management and staff, including primary contact phone numbers and email addresses;
  • Current copies of Serving It Right Certificates for all management and staff members — effective September 15, 2015. Check the certificate expiry dates to ensure they are current.
  • Copies of all security and door staff certificates;
  • Phone lists of all key business contacts including:  police and fire non-emergency, security alarm company, BC Liquor Inspector, BC Hydro, taxi services for safe rides home, management or ownership information;
  • A copy of your company’s Policy and Procedures Manual;
  • Other documents previously requested by Liquor or Health Inspectors.

Step Two

Ensure your site conforms to liquor and safety standards. Perform daily checks to prepare your space for surprise inspections.

  • Ensure all Exit signs are lit and that exits are clear of any obstructions (i.e. for on-premise sites, no beer kegs in the exit corridors; retailers, make sure deliveries aren’t blocking exit ways and are stored safely);
  • Ensure you are controlling all business entrances and that the approved capacity specified on your BC Liquor License is never exceeded;
  • Post signage required by the BC Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (i.e. “two pieces of ID”, “no minors permitted” or “no liquor beyond this point” for on-premise establishments);
  • Maintain a log book. The log should be bound so that no pages can be added, pages should be numbered, and every entry logged should include date, time, and the name and signature of the management or staff member who recorded the entry. The log book should contain at least one recording per shift, each day, even if there are no occurrences. In that case, record the date and time and an entry such as “There are no instances to report”.

Step Three

Prepare your Team!  Ongoing communication and discussion will help your team understand the critical role they play in your business’s success.

  • Hold daily meetings before or after shifts to discuss issues that arise, concerns and expectations;
  • Invite your BC Liquor Inspector to a team meeting. Ask the inspector if they have any suggestions for improvements. They are a great resource for information and are eager to help;
  • Continually review your business’s Policy and Procedures Manual. Don’t write it and forget about. The manual should be reviewed periodically by management and staff, new policies recorded upon implementation, and current policies amended as required;
  • Continually review the Terms and Conditions manual provided by the LCLB for your establishment type;
  • Hold regularly scheduled staff training to ensure your team understands policies, procedures and your expectations;
  • Conduct situation role playing with your team that allows them to practice responding to common scenarios, such as what to do when you have an intoxicated patron (i.e. do not let them remain AND ensure they have a safe ride home.) Roll-playing will help your staff respond effectively and efficiently in a real-world situation.

Remember, the state of your compliance depends on your team understanding and meeting of the obligations set out in your establishment’s BC Liquor License Terms and Conditions Manual. With continual team training and open communication, licensees can make a big difference within their business by taking a proactive approach. Create easily accessible documents that are available when a situation presents itself; ensure proper signage is in place and continually have open discussions with your team about ID’ing minors, over-service to guests and overcrowding within your establishment.

By making these small changes, you will see a synergy within your team and avoid confusion when stress is high in the moment — as may be the case when the BC Liquor Inspector makes an unexpected visit. Your customers benefit because your staff can focus on them, and you’ll have peace of mind that your establishment is in compliance when an inspector arrives.

If you want to ensure that your establishment is in compliance, contact Rising Tide Consultants today! We conduct store audits and can assist you with the creation of your Policy and Procedures Manual. Let us help you streamline your compliance process so you can focus on the growth of your business.

Rebecca Hardin, Vice President
Rising Tide Consultants