BC Liquor License Policies a Game-Changer for Many BC Businesses

On January 23, 2017, the newly revamped Liquor Control and Licensing Act comes into force, bringing with it a host of changes too lengthy to list in one article. Business that will benefit the most are those that have not traditionally been able to apply for a primary BC liquor license allowing them to serve alcohol to their patrons. Read more

Wine in BC Grocery Stores

The British Columbia government’s Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB) has reviewed the policy around private sales of liquor, particularly with regard to wine in BC grocery stores, and made some changes that were effective April 1, 2015. The most significant changes in BC liquor sales policy concerns the distance between liquor selling outlets, both public and private, and the type of outlet that may sell liquor and or BC wines. Read more

BC government reduces wholesale mark-up for wines over $20 a bottle

Alliance of Beverage Licensees jpgAttorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton announce positive changes to the wholesale pricing structure for wines over $20 a bottle. The government is reducing the mark-up for this category – leveling out the wholesale price for wines that would have been impacted.

Minister Anton stated: “government is not putting inadvertent pressure on industry to raise liquor prices when they sell their products to British Columbians. Our wholesale pricing model is not intended to increase government revenue or retail prices.”

Under the wholesale model previously released, a base mark-up of 89% would have been applied to the first $11.75 per litre of wine and a second tier mark-up of 67% would have been applied to the remainder.

The update announced today will significantly decrease the second tier mark-up from 67% to 27% – adjusting wholesale prices so they are more consistent with what industry sees today.

KEY MESSAGES

  • We are pleased about the government’s announcement to reduce the wholesale mark-up for this wine category.
  • ABLE BC joined a chorus of groups in the industry advocating for changes to the wholesale pricing model, and we are happy to see the government accept our recommendations.
  • While ABLE BC’s Staff continues to “crunch the numbers”, overall wholesale prices will see little or no change on April 1, 2015.
  • On February 1st, the LDB will release a new wholesale pricing calculator and vendor-specific price list. Following this release, ABLE BC will provide a more detailed analysis of the new wholesale pricing model.
  • On March 6th, the LDB will publish Period I (April 1, 2015) wholesale prices; and on March 20th, BC Liquor Stores will publish Period I (April 1, 2015) retail prices for vendor-specific SKUs (hospitality sales).

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact the ABLE BC office.

Beer Pricing Showdown

A few weeks ago, the government announced the minimum price for a beer which surprisingly caught some licensees off guard and means they will now have to increase the price of beer in their establishments.  One of the recommendations of the Liquor Policy Review was to set a minimum price for all liquor products as a result of health concerns.  The minimum price set for draught beer is now $0.25 per ounce, therefore, a 12 ounce sleeve of beer would be $3.00 minimum.  Quite a few licensed establishments, particularly in rural areas, had lower beer prices than this and now as a result “Happy Hours” are not so happy at some establishments with patrons “crying in their beer”.  The government really has two choices: either bite the bullet and stay the course, or review this price with a view to dropping the minimum from $.025 downward.  It will be interesting to see what happens with this price showdown. 

BC Government Updates Minimum Drink Prices

Rising Tide Consultants Support New Special Events Liquor Policies

Rising Tide Consultants General Manager, Bert Hick, applauded the recent announcement by the Province of BC regarding the serving of spirits at sports and entertainment venues.  “The changes are long overdue” said Hick, “and I congratulate John Yap and the Honourable Suzanne Anton on facilitating these important new liquor policies that give consumers more choice when attending large-scale events.”

BC’s liquor policy revisions also include the removal of fencing barriers at family-friendly festivals, sporting, music and cultural events, and just in time for this year’s summer festival season.  The modernization of the outdated liquor policies was met with resounding enthusiasm.

https://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/2014/04/fencing-barriers-removed-for-family-friendly-festivals.html

This week’s announcement of updated changes to be implemented from the Liquor Policy Review are part of the provincial government’s effort to modernize consumer choices, cut red tape and spur the economy and jobs.

“We’ve been waiting for these positive changes in liquor licensing and sales for a very long time,”  added Hick, “and we can do more work with our Rising Tide clients to maximize the bottom line at their venues and events, and we can help other businesses create new sales opportunities in future.”

 

British Columbia Liquor Policy Review Considers Selling Liquor In Grocery & Convenience Stores

One of the most popular ideas that is being considered by the current Liquor Policy Review is the possibility of making liquor available in grocery and convenience stores. John Yap, Parliamentary Secretary for the Liquor Policy Reform, announced on Oct 29, 2013 that the government is going to explore retail models in other jurisdictions that permit the sale of alcohol in grocery and convenience stores.

The last time the government of British Columbia completed a comprehensive liquor policy review of both the commercial policies (i.e the Liquor Distribution Branch) and the regulatory policies (i.e. the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch) was back in 1987/88 that was chaired by John Jansen, MLA from Chilliwack. At the time I was the General Manager of the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch and was very involved in the review. The issue of liquor in grocery stores was very much the center of discussion at that time and there was strong lobbying by the large grocery chains and convenience stores for liquor to be available in their stores. The Government wisely decided not to pursue this policy for many reasons that are still valid today and need to be considered in the current debate.

How do you define a grocery store? It is obvious that Save on Foods, Thrifty’s, Safeway etc. are grocery stores. But what about Cobb’s Bakery, Kin’s Market or gourmet cooking stores selling food? Would they too be considered grocery stores? Wal-Mart, Shoppers Drug Mart, and Costco all sell food. Are they grocery stores? Is the corner convenience store considered a grocery store? In the Downtown Eastside and Gastown there are stores known for selling high alcohol content mouthwash. Would they be eligible to sell alcohol? Would it be based on items sold, square footage, or some other measure? These questions could significantly increase the availability of liquor to all persons throughout British Columbia and should be carefully considered. When you increase the availability of alcohol, you increase the risk to public safety, abuse and crime.

During the review in 1987/88, the police and health authorities opposed the idea of increasing the availability of alcohol by making it available at grocery and convenience stores. At that time they had many valid reasons for this position such as an increased possibility of shoplifting, robberies, public intoxication, and increased crime. These issues still ring true today. If the availability of liquor is increased, then an increase in monitoring, controlling and enforcement will have to be increased too. Budgets for police and health would need to also be increased to meet with the greater demand.

The Liquor Control and Licensing Branch currently contracts minors to work with liquor inspectors to attempt to purchase alcohol at licensed establishments. Licensees have been hit with high fines and suspensions as a result. The industry has responded by significantly increasing measures to control availability and access to alcohol in addition to heightened policies and procedures ensuring that the highest level of diligent liquor service practices are in place. Allowing the sale of liquor in grocery and convenience stores directly contradicts all of the progress that has been made by implementing these procedures. Minors have no reason to be in a liquor store. They do however have plenty of reasons to be in grocery or convenience stores. In fact, teens naturally gravitate to convenience stores as demonstrated by a visit to any local corner store near a high school during lunch break. Vodka for sale beside the Slurpee machine puts minors at risk.

Minors easily accessing a drug like alcohol, being sold by individuals who are not in the business of selling alcohol, will be just one of the unintended consequences that British Columbians will have to face if this policy change comes to fruition. In 1987/88 we considered, researched, debated and came up with the mixed public and private retail store schematic that has changed over the years but is still in place today. This model has worked well. Increasing the availability of alcohol will make alcohol more convenient, but the cost of the related unintended consequences will be anything but convenient. It’s time for a sober second thought to this possibility.

 

– Bert Hick, President of Rising Tide Consultants

For more British Columbia Liquor Licensing information, continue to read the NEWS section of our website.

 

Extend your patio hours past 11pm in the City of Vancouver

Vancouver City Council unanimously passed a proposal put forward by  Mayor Gregor Robertson to allow patios to expand their hours of operation past 11pm in the City of Vancouver. Rising Tide Consultants can help liquor licensees with patios, participate in the relaxed regulation by applying for consideration in extending their hours. The City will look at each application on a case by case basis. For the preliminary stages it is likely that City will approve establishments with track records of good behaviour who are in downtown areas away from residential neighbours.

“I would love to see hours extended this summer for good operators, where  they’re respecting the neighbourhood, or not impacting the neighbourhood at all,  and can stay open a little later,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson, who introduced  the motion. “Right now it’s an 11 p.m. shutdown. There’s an immediate step that  could happen with our successful patios.”

A Facebook poll created by the mayor’s office asked for feedback from Vancouverites on the possibility of extending patio hours past 11pm. The results were overwhelmingly in favour the extended patio hours. 96% of the respondents were in favour of the extended liquor licensed patios, while 1.6% were opposed, the remainder wanted additional information before responding.

During the 2010 Olympics patio hours were extended to 1 a.m. “We did extend hours for everyone a few years ago, but that’s a lengthier  council process, changing regulation,” Robertson said. “The short-term step is looking at what we can do this summer for good  operators to extend their space or hours and enable more patio use.”

This relaxation of policy for the City of Vancouver is in the progress now and Rising Tide Consultants will be working with licensees in the City of Vancouver. For more information on the City of Vancouver Patio Hours, and British Columbia’s Liquor Review continue to read the NEWS section of our website.

 

British Columbia’s Liquor Review

British Columbians will have an opportunity to have their voices heard regarding the modernization of B.C.’s antiquated liquor laws. Parliamentary Secretary for Liquor Policy Reform, John Yap, will begin the first phase of his review today. Phase one begins with letters being sent out to major stakeholders throughout B.C. asking for their written feedback and ideas for change. Letters will be sent to liquor licensees of all types throughout B.C. Yap will also be meeting with various groups from industry, local governments, First Nations, police, and health and social policy associations.

Phase two of the review will engage a broader public consultation. There will be a Liquor Review website which is estimated to be launched in September which will inform British Columbians of the current liquor system, and allow them the opportunity to provide their input on what they would like to see from their government. The review is expected to be completed by October 31, 2013. The final report will be presented to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice’s for their consideration by November 25, 2013.

Some limitations to the current policies, which will be noted as part of British Columbia’s liquor review include:

  • Not allowing minors that are accompanied by a parent or guardian into a pub that serves food during daytime hours.
  • Not allowing wine and other local liquor to be sold at farmers’ markets.
  • Not allowing establishments such as spas to be eligible for liquor licensing.
  • The lengthy process involved in obtaining a liquor licence.

Quotes:

Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton –

Right now, some of B.C.’s liquor laws go back many years. In concert with industry and citizens, we are looking to make practical and responsible changes which promote consumer convenience and economic growth in the province, with a strong eye to maintaining public safety and protecting the health of our citizens. Once the public consultation process begins in September, British Columbians can let us know how they would like to see B.C.’s liquor laws reformed.

Parliamentary Secretary for Liquor Policy Reform John Yap –

I look forward to working with industry representatives, health and public-safety advocates and engaging directly with the public online as we look for common sense ways to modernize our liquor laws in this province. I know many British Columbians have a lot of opinions and our government is open to hearing them as we move forward in this process.

For more updated information on British Columbia’s Liquor Review continue to read the NEWS section of our website.