Pubs cheer new B.C. liquor laws

Strict regulations confusing to tourists, says industry advocate

Big changes announced to B.C. liquor laws today are sure to give Vancouverites cheer.

Happy hour specials will be allowed, patrons won’t have to order food with their drinks in restaurants, and parents will be able to bring their children into pubs and Legion halls until a certain hour, among other changes that have received support from the provincial government.

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Unsurprisingly, B.C.’s hospitality industry is thrilled.

“Today’s announcement gives a restaurant much more flexibility to respond to the demands of its guests,” said Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the British Columbia Restaurant and Foodservices.

Tostenson said Premier Christy Clark has made a “bold” decision that responds to public demand and will help businesses flourish.

The liquor policy changes are the result of a series of public consultations on changing B.C. liquor laws led this fall by Parliamentary Secretary John Yap, Liberal MLA for Richmond-Steveston. Yap submitted his final recommendation to Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton on Nov. 28.

Eli Gershkovitch, owner of Steamworks Brewing Company and Rogue Kitchen & Bar, is happy to hear children will be able to eat in pubs with their parents.

“It will be a shot in the arm to the pub business,” said Gershkovitch.

“We rely so heavily on tourism and you can’t break up a family. It’s very confusing, to put it politely, to many tourists that there are certain areas of the establishment that they’re allowed in with their children and there are certain areas they’re not.”

Gershkovitch also thinks it’s about time that the government allowed happy hour specials for the after-work crowd.

“To go out for a couple of drinks after work is a bit of a reward and it’s something that is so common in the rest of North America, at some point we have to join with the rest of the country,” said Gershkovitch.

“What often happens is, people who are in for happy hour stay for dinner.”

He said alcohol over-consumption is not a serious concern because people are conscious of the province’s strict drinking and driving laws.

Other changes to B.C.’s liquor laws include allow restaurants to apply for a special licence to become a nightclub after dinner service, allowing patrons to carry their own drink across an establishment and allowing liquor licences to be extended to non-traditional businesses, such as spas.

Tostenson also applauded the premier’s decision to extend the province’s alcohol safety course, Serving It Right, to all hospitality workers, liquor store employees and special licensed events workers.

“She hasn’t abandoned the social responsibility side of this, which is emphasizing that everybody who serves alcohol, whether retail or in a restaurant or bar, making sure everybody’s got the Serving It Right course,” Tostenson said.

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