Liquor Reforms: It’s up to municipalities

Monday, March 11th, 2002

Reaction is mixed to later closing hours


Vancouver Mayor Philip Owen isn’t in favour of extending the operating hours of pubs and restaurants but he’d like to exam­ine allowing cabarets to stay open until 6 a.m.

“I’d prefer to study the possi­bility of [cabarets] staying open to 6 a.m., so [patrons] would leave when it’s light and they can use public transit,” Owen said. “But I don’t think I’d be in favour of pubs and restaurants. I’m not sure if that’s a good idea.”

The provincial government has announced a number of sweep­ing reforms to B.C.’s liquor laws, including a two-hour extension in drinking hours – from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. – but municipalities must first approve it.

Owen said municipalities may be restricted in what they can do to control hours of operation, because liquor regulations are a provincial responsibility. “We have persuasive power, not legal power.”

However, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum said that he under­stands municipalities would retain the right to set hours for pubs and cabarets.

“Most of our places are open until 12:30 or 2 o’clock. And the control mechanism, as I under­stand it, is with the city.”

McCallum said he doesn’t believe council would want the hours changed, although much depends on where the pubs and cabarets are located. “I don’t think council would support that [later hours].”

Meanwhile, Vancouver resi­dent Emily Goetz isn’t too pleased about the new regula­tions, which could see her neigh­bourhood pub stay open until 4 a.m.

“The noise in that lane [echoes] like a canyon,” Goetz said of the alley that her home and Jeremiah’s Neighbourhood Pub, in the 3600-block of West Fourth, share. “I don’t want to be woken up at 4 a.m.”

Neighbour Neale Currie agrees, saying the pub’s current closing time of 1 a.m. on week­ends and midnight on other days, is fine. “It’s a nice balance, the way it is now, so I’d be against [later hours]. You can hear cars going up our lane and it gets louder when it’s later. There’s a lot of spillover.”

However, Jeremiah’s manager Carl Austin says the new liquor rules are timely, although he doesn’t know if the pub will decide to stay open later.

“Any change is good. But whether we have extended hours, we’ll have to look at that.”

Austin said more customers could show up at their pub if it stays open later, though he thinks existing clientele would simply stay longer.

“But I don’t think we’ll have problems with the neighbour­hood. It’s better they [customers] are in here than out on the street.”

Jennifer Crawford, owner of the Raven Pub in North Vancou­ver, said she looks forward to possibly staying open later. “We now close at 12:30 a.m. It would be excellent if we can stay open until 2 a.m.”

Juanita Giroux, a bartender with the Billy Miner Neighbour­hood Pub in Maple Ridge, agreed that later hours would be great for business. “Cool, that’s what I say. I don’t think anybody would have a problem with that.”

While many residents are concerned about the effect on neigh­bourhoods, Mark Schindler, who lives near Darby D. Dawes Pub in Vancouver, isn’t one of them.

“I think it [the prospect of later hours] is wonderful. I haven’t had a problem with the noise when they close.”

West End Residents’ Associa­tion director Marie Claire Seebohm said West End pubs and restaurants are generally consid­erate of residents, but later hours could mean more partyers com­ing downtown and more drunk drivers on local streets.

Wayne Holm, president of Spectra Inc., a group of restau­rants that includes Milestones, The Boathouse and Macaroni Grill, said the new rules are long overdue, especially one that

allows restaurants to serve alco­hol without ordering food. “This brings us into the proper centu­ry.

“In the bar area of our restau­rants, it will allow us to be on an equal footing with pubs and hotel bars.”

Holm said some of their restaurants may stay decide to stay open later. “If we’re in a strong urban market, we may stay open late. Possibly for an [extra] hour or two.”

Tourism Vancouver spokesman Walt Judas said the new rules will be good for tourism. “Visitors have certain expectations and this gives them a choice. These changes will be welcomed by many in the tourism industry.”

B.C. proposes sweeping liberalization of liquor laws


VICTORIA – British Columbians may soon be able to drink until 4 a.m. in bars and buy spirits in private liquor stores as the B.C. government expands the rules governing the sale and con­sumption of alcohol.

In what may be the most sweeping reform of B.C.’s liquor laws since prohibition was lifted in 1921, the provincial government is extending drinking hours by two hours, allowing the sale of hard liquor n beer and wine stores, cutting liquor laws by 25 per cent and expanding the avail­ability of booze in rural B.C.

In addition, the province will lift the moratorium on the num­ber of cold beer and wine stores, which was capped at 290, and will allow existing stores to expand.

Solicitor General Rich Coleman said the changes will sim­plify and modernize B.C. s complex liquor laws while making the province more attractive to tourists.

“These changes will provide more consumer choice for bev­erage alcohol purchases,” Cole­man said Friday after receiving unanimous support at an open cabinet meeting.

“By having the restrictions we’ve had, we have actually turned an industry into dinosaurs over a number of years,” Cole­man said, citing the incremental increase in liquor laws over 80 years.

“It is time to rethink the [licensing] scheme in the context of today’s world and eliminate those rules not clearly focused on public safety or community standards.”

Beer and wine stores will be allowed to sell hard liquor as of April 2, which will generate another $15 million for the province. Most of the other changes will take place in the next few months once new regu­lations are written.

Coleman said municipalities will have to approve of many of the changes that would allow for more drinking establishments, more liquor sale outlets, fewer rules and extended drinking hours.

For example, the province will allow a two-hour extension in drinking hours – from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. – but municipalities, such as Vancouver, must first approve it.

“There is no reason to believe that a large number of [new] licences will occur,” Coleman said. “Licences will not be grant­ed where there is evidence the market is already saturated.”

At present, a complex tangle of 19 licensing categories define which establishments can serve liquor, including hotels, bars, pubs and cabarets.

We have actually turned an industry into dinosaurs over a number of years.

The changes introduced Friday will reduce the number of cate­gories to two: Establishments will either be “food primary,” such as cafes and restaurants, or “liquor primary,” for bars, pubs and lounges.

The government plans to cut more than 25 per cent of B.C.’s 5,800 liquor regulations, which have long been a source of irrita­tion for the hospitality industry.

The regulations control every­thing from the positioning of walls and the colour of paint to the type of furniture and the advertising on coasters.

“We’re not going to be in the business of having silly rules on liquor. We’re going to be in the business of public safety.”

By cutting “oddball” regula­tions, as many as 14 licensing inspectors will be freed up to enforce underage drinking laws and rules on over consumption and overcrowding. In addition, there will be increased enforce­ment on illegal booze cans, oper­ating primarily in Vancouver, which serve alcohol after the legal bars close their doors.

Competition Minister Rick Thorpe said the changes, partic­ularly the expansion of spirits to cold beer and wine stores, will increase customer convenience and selection.

“There is overwhelming sup­port from the public to have spir­its available in cold beer and wine stores,” he said.

The changes may open the door to privatizing B.C. s 222 gov­ernment liquor stores, but Thor­pe said the province is several months away from a decision.

The B.C. government is also changing the rules affecting liquor sales in rural British Columbia, where booze is sold from 144 rural agency stores, such as general stores.

The government is cutting regulation to allow for more rural outlets to sell liquor.

“Why should somebody that lives in a rural community have to drive 20 kilometres to buy a bottle of wine for dinner or a six pack of beer to watch the hockey game?” Thorpe said. “Why shouldn’t they have the same access in rural British Columbia that all other British Columbians have in major markets?”

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