B.C. toasts happy hours, hospitality, legion changes

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PREMIER Christy Clark announced the B.C. government’s support on Tuesday for a second set of key liquor changes that will create opportunities for small businesses and legions and open up new dining options for B.C. families, while continuing to protect public safety.

To create more consumer convenience and give businesses more flexibility to grow, government will be introducing happy hour to B.C. To make sure liquor rules better reflect how British Columbians live, families soon will have the freedom to eat together in B.C.’s pubs, legions and restaurants. To enhance health and public safety, the Province also will improve and expand B.C.’s responsible beverage service program, Serving it Right (SIR).

“These changes are about updating antiquated licensing rules to reflect what British Columbians actually want, while continuing to protect public safety,” said Premier Clark. “Families should be able to dine together in their neighbourhood pub. Consumers should be free to order whatever they want in a restaurant. These are exactly the kind of common-sense changes to B.C.’s liquor laws we promised to make – and we’re keeping that promise.”

Specifically, with the Liquor Policy Review recommendations announced today, government is supporting:

* Small businesses and the hospitality industry, through changes like common-sense licensing and happy hours.

* Places like pubs, legions and membership clubs by making changes to create more family-friendly environments.

* Health, safety and social responsibility by enhancing B.C.’s SIR program.

With minimum drink pricing consistent with the views that Parliamentary Secretary John Yap heard from health advocates during the B.C. Liquor Policy Review, the B.C. government will be opening the door to time-limited drink specials – such as happy hours.

Other changes that will benefit the hospitality industry include simplified, common-sense licensing rules. If patrons do not wish to eat, they will no longer be required to order food when they are in a food-primary establishment. Also, customers will be permitted to move freely with their beverage from one adjoining licensed area to another.

“At Cactus Club Cafe, we know how important it is to provide an enjoyable and safe environment for all of our guests,” said Richard Jaffray, president and founder of Cactus Restaurants Ltd. “We applaud Premier Christy Clark and the B.C. government for taking positive steps to modernize our province’s liquor laws and regulations.”

The B.C. government will further increase flexibility around licensing by giving liquor-primary establishments and clubs, such as legions, the option to accommodate minors up until a certain hour in the evening. This means, for example, that parents will be able to take their kids for a bite to eat at a pub or to enjoy some music at a legion that chooses to be family friendly.

“We’re thrilled to hear government is making positive changes in liquor regulations impacting The Royal Canadian Legion and other membership clubs, so we can hold gatherings that safely accommodate minors, like community events, anniversaries and birthday parties,” said Angus Stanfield, President of the Royal Canadian Legion BC / Yukon Command. “These changes will help us strengthen our charitable giving for veterans, youth, seniors and the communities we serve.”

Balancing these changes with health and safety in mind, the Province will extend SIR to all hospitality industry workers who serve alcohol. This will include, for the first time, all servers in B.C.’s 5,600 licensed restaurants, as well as staff at BC Liquor Stores and rural agency and wine stores. A specialized version of SIR will be required for licensees and personnel who serve at special occasion licensed events, such as banquets or weddings.

“We welcome the opportunity to evaluate, expand and enhance our Serving it Right program so we can build on our comprehensive information and provide well-rounded knowledge about responsible beverage service,” said Arlene Keis, CEO of go2, B.C.’s human resources association for the tourism industry. “Drawing on the success of our current program, these changes will further instil effective skills and techniques for hospitality workers to promote responsible consumption.”

These changes align with recommendations put forward in Yap’s report. Government’s support for these eight recommendations builds on a set of 12 others announced last week by Premier Clark that will benefit tourism, small businesses and liquor manufacturers.

“I heard throughout my consultations – from pubs, restaurants, legions and British Columbians – that licensing rules have become complicated and onerous over the years, and that they need to better match modern expectations,” said Yap. “These changes will address that call and strike a balance, as we increase convenience for families and the industry, ensure continued growth of B.C. businesses and continue to safeguard health and safety.”

It is anticipated that Yap’s report on the review will be publicly released prior to February 15, 2014, once Cabinet has had the opportunity to fully consider its 70-plus recommendations.