If you are considering applying for an Alberta liquor licence, the complex process is made much easier, and the chances of success much greater, if you seek the services of an Alberta liquor licence consultant. As you’ll see below, there are many differences between BC and Alberta, both in classification and in the application process.

Although both provinces require similar background checks, premise inspections, and staff certifications for all types of liquor licences, BC and Alberta also have significant differences in regulating and controlling how, when, and where (and to whom) liquor can be served.

For example, Alberta does not regulate the number of liquor stores and where they are located, but leaves this up to each municipality. Issues of community image, property values, and safety are regulated within each outlet’s business licence. BC, however, mandates outlet locations and limits the number of certain types of licences, most notably the newly created Liquor (Licensee) Retail Store Licences.

The following are the types of licences described by the two governments. Each licence class has its own eligibility requirements and its own licence terms and conditions, outlined in its respective provincial liquor laws under the BC Liquor Control and Licensing Branch and the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission.

  • BC requires Agent’s Licences for independent liquor agents who market products from a variety of liquor manufacturers, and BC liquor manufacturers who want to sell their products off-site. In Alberta this requires a Class D Licence (retail liquor stores), which regulates all retail sales of liquor.
  • BC requires Catering Licences for catering companies so they may provide full food and beverage services to their customers at events. There is no similar licensing requirement in Alberta, though catering is included in the Class B Licence (recreational facilities), which regulates liquor sales at special events.
  • BC requires Food-Primary Licences for selling liquor by the glass at restaurants. Alberta requires a Class A Licence (restaurants and lounges) – “Minors Allowed.”
  • BC requires Liquor-Primary Licences for selling liquor by the glass at businesses (pubs, bars, lounges, nightclubs, etc.) that primarily sell liquor. In Alberta, this requires a Class A Licence (restaurants and lounges) – “Minors Prohibited.”
  • BC requires a Manufacturer’s Licence for making liquor at a winery, brewery or distillery. Manufacturers can also apply to add a lounge, special event area, tour area and/or picnic area endorsement to their Manufacturer’s Licence. Alberta requires a Class E Licence for the manufacture of liquor (e.g., distillery, winery, brewery, brew pub).
  • BC requires Special Occasion Licences for individuals and groups holding special events, such as community celebrations, weddings or banquets. In Alberta, special occasions are licensed as Class B (recreational facilities), which applies to the sale and consumption of liquor in premises open to those who have paid an entrance fee, purchased a ticket, or are entitled to use the facility (stadiums, wedding halls) and Class C (private clubs).
  • BC issues UBrew/UVin (Ferment-on-Premises) Licences for businesses that sell their customers the ingredients, equipment and advice they need to make their own beer, wine, cider or coolers. Alberta regulates this type of business under Class E Licences (manufacture of liquor).
  • BC requires Liquor (Licensee) Retail Store Licences for selling liquor by the bottle at retail stores (often called Private Liquor Stores). The number of these licences issued in BC is strictly controlled to quota. Alberta requires a Class D Licence (retail liquor stores) for all retail liquor sales, and does not limit the number of such licences.
  • BC does not allow for Licensee to licensee sales. That is, all purchases for all licence types (with exception to manufacturing retail stores) must be purchased via the Liquor Distribution Branch or from an authorized distributor (i.e., manufacturer), whereas Alberta allows pubs/restaurants with the Class D Licence to sell to other licensees, such as liquor stores. Not all purchases have to go through their distribution center (known as Liquor Connect).
  • BC requires Wine Store Licences for independent and winery-operated wine stores. Alberta requires a Class D Licence (retail liquor stores) for the retail sale of liquor for off-premises consumption, including hotel off-sales.

BC vs Alberta: Liquor Licence Application Process

The processes for liquor licence application in each province are quite different, as evidenced by the way their websites present access to “frequently asked questions” and online application forms.

BC’s Liquor Control and Licensing Branch website explains requirements for the types of licences and provides links to online application forms for each. It also posts an extensive list of FAQs.

The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission website describes each type of licence and provides handbooks and guides to the licence application process (PDF). The Commission provides phone numbers of government agents who will provide guidance and advice on how to create the required licence proposal. There are limited forms available online, as the AGLC recommends a preliminary phone call to discuss each specific application before it moves through the system.

Payments: BC has a wide array of payment options for applicants, whereas Alberta will only take payment via cheque. Additionally, Alberta requires original documents when submitting applications.

Receive a Professional Alberta Liquor Licence Consultation

Alberta liquor licensing classification and application is substantially different than in BC. Rising Tide Consultants can help you navigate the complexities of securing a BC or Alberta liquor licence. We also work with clients in all provinces.

Contact us to speak with one of our experienced liquor licence consultants. We’ll provide you with the right information to save you time and cost.

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