As Vancouver and BC liquor license experts, Rising Tide Consultants is aware of the confusion surrounding special event liquor licenses.

There are a number of misconceptions about obtaining a BC liquor license for a special event, including eligibility requirements and rules. To add to the confusion, BC Special Occasion License (SOL) policies are currently under review and may be subject to upcoming changes.

Here are some basics facts you should know about SOLs:

BC Special Occasion Liquor License Types

  • Private family special event license A license to serve liquor at private family-related functions such as weddings, birthdays, and reunions attended by family and friends.
  • Private special event license A license to serve liquor at an event hosted by a group or organization.
  • Public special event license A license to serve liquor at an event open to members of the public, who purchase a ticket to attend, either at the event, or in advance. Examples of public special events include community events, cultural events and festivals, outdoor concerts, and tasting events hosted by liquor manufacturers to promote a product.Note: In Vancouver, BC, public special event holders must also obtain approval from the Vancouver Police Department Operational Planning Unit.

Important Businesses are generally not eligible for Special Occasion Licenses.

General SOL Rules

The following rules apply to all BC Special Occasion Liquor Licenses:

  • An applicant must be at least 19 years old and a BC resident, a Canadian Citizen, or an individual with permanent residence status under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The applicant must be the special event’s host or a designated representative applying on behalf of a group.
  • Individuals can apply for an SOL, but generally only for family-related special events such as weddings or reunions.
  • BC non-profits can apply for both public or private SOLs for events they host.
  • Businesses are usually not eligible for Special Occasion Licenses.
  • All servers (paid or unpaid) must have Special Event Server certification.
  • Only individuals hosting with a private family SOL may offer (but not sell) homemade beer, cider, wine or U-brew products.
  • All licensees have a duty of care, both to the patrons whom they serve alcohol and the public, who may be effected by a patron’s behaviour. A licensee could be held legally liable for harm caused by the patron. Alcohol must not be served to intoxicated patrons, and intoxicated people are not allowed in the area covered by your Special Event License.
  • Generally, minors (people under 19) may attend special events, though they may not be served alcohol, serve alcohol, or sell alcohol tickets.
  • When selling alcohol at a special event, you may not sell it at prices higher than those stipulated by the Special Occasion License maximum liquor price schedule.
  • You must supply some non-alcoholic drinks and food at your event.
  • You, as a special event licensee, are subject to the same penalties for infractions as owners of commercial bars.
  • You may apply for a maximum of three (3) BC Special Occasion Licenses per month, or a maximum of 24 per year.

Important This article is for general information purposes only, and is intended as an overview to illustrate just some of the highlights of BC Special Occasion License eligibility and rules. It is not intended to be used as a guide. For official BC government guides and documentation, please refer to the BC Ministry of Justice Special Occasion License page for more detailed, up-to-date information.

Contact Us About Our Special Occasion Liquor License Consulting Services

As you can see, if you are considering applying for an SOL, there is a lot of information to digest. With the many rules and definitions, people easily misunderstand licensing options, eligibility requirements and responsibilities. If you have any questions about BC Special Occasion Licenses or need help expediting the application process, please contact us for information about our consultation services.

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