The Campaign for Culture was actively pushing for a sensible, modern, and culture-friendly liquor policy in BC since 2012. We are an independent group striving to represent the interests of consumers, as well as British Columbians who value the social and cultural fabric of our province. Having introduced broadly supported ideas, such as Happy Hours and the sale of craft liquor at Farmers Markets, to the province’s conversation around liquor policy, we worked with the government and elements of the industry in order to bring forth changes that will enhance our province.

 

Our mission was to:

1 - enhance business by removing limitations on creativity and opportunity

2 - enhance the social and cultural vibrancy of our province

3 - promote and strengthen local industry

As of June 21st, 2014, virtually all of our asks have either been implemented or have seen government commitment to be implemented in the near future. We hope that British Columbians take full advantage of our new, modern, sensible liquor laws going forward. 

See our specific asks below.


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1. Allow Happy Hours

British Columbia, until June 20, 2014, was the only province in Canada to not allow differential liquor pricing, ʻhappy hoursʼ, and was one of the few jurisdictions in the developed world without them. Studies have shown that jurisdictions with moderated happy hours have are not any worse off than jurisdictions without. Lifting the ban on happy hours would:

1)  Enhance the social fabric of BC - help foster an ʻafter workʼ culture similar to those in Montreal, Toronto, and Calgary 

2)  Increase autonomy for businesses - remove unnecessarily restrictive policies 

3)  Modernize an archaic policy and catch up to the rest of Canada 

 

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3. Overhaul Special Occasion Licensing

Any British Columbian wanting to hold an event in which alcohol is involved needs to obtain a Special Occasion License from the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch. We believe that an overhaul of the SOL system can increase the number of robust events and festivals in our province, making BC a more vibrant place for residents, businesses, and tourists. The Campaign for Culture has specific recommendations for changes to the SOL process.

1) Eliminate the exemption process, which costs $100, and adds weeks to the time required to get an SOL.

2) Hold indoor and outdoor events to the same standards; eliminate “beer gardens” and the necessity to cage off adults who choose to enjoy the drink at outdoor events. 

3) Give SOL events the same right as licensed establishments; allow spirits to be served at events, and give event organizers more freedoms on pricing of liquor. 

 

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2. Allow the sale of local craft liquor at Farmers Markets

Farmersʼ Markets have become key gatherings where locals have the opportunity to meet —and purchase products directly from— local food and beverage producers. Allowing the sale of craft liquor products at Farmersʼ Markets, as done in a number of other jurisdictions, will enable British Columbians to enjoy the best products from their community.

The allowance of sale of local wine, beer, and spirits will ensure BCʼs local production of liquor to thrive and compete on a national and global level. This change to liquor policy will not only help our businesses, but also strengthen the cultural fabric of our province.

 

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4. Allow creative establishments and flexible licensing

BC’s binary licensing structure for establishments is highly problematic for several reasons and is in need of major changes. First, it restricts the nature of licensed establishments to 1) bars and nightclubs, and 2) restaurants. This greatly limits the creativity that often comes with social venues in jurisdictions with modern liquor policy. Second, many cultural venues such as art galleries are forced to obtain Special Occasion Licenses even for regular events, which increases inefficiency and related costs. We urge the establishment of a third class of licenses to allow for establishments that don’t fit the current dual framework, which was imposed on Jo Surich’s 1999 recommendation.


Since its inception, the Campaign for Culture was advocating for a once and for all review and overhaul of BC’s archaic liquor regulations. While we were met with considerable resistance at first, our mission was eventually accomplished. With the liquor review consultation in late 2013, the BC Government carried out its most successful public consultation in history.

The government subsequently announced 73 changes, to be implemented in 2014 and 2015. There is also a commitment to completely re-write the Liquor Control and Licensing Act in Spring of 2015. 

See the Final Report and recommendations here