Getting a drink in B.C. could become a lot easier if changes proposed last week in provincial cabinet become law.
Solicitor General Rich Coleman proposed changes that would move the province from 19 different forms of liquor licensing to only two food-primary establishments and liquor-primary establishments. And cold beer and wine stores could soon be allowed to stock hard liquor in direct competition with government-run liquor stores.
“The shift is to move us away from setting a bunch of prescriptive rules that make our people do a lot of inspections that are just a waste of time,” Coleman told the Free Press. Instead, he says, the ministry will focus on enforcing restrictions on overconsumption, overcrowding in bars, service to minors and illegal alcohol sales. Eliminating those other regulations, he adds, will have the same effect as hiring 12 new provincial liquor inspectors. “We shouldn’t be concentrating our time on those silly rules. It is a huge amount of administrative time and effort.”
Changes to licensing could mean being able to order drinks at a restaurant without ordering food as well.
Coleman says local governments, like Prince George’s City Council, will have more control over the issuing of liquor licenses and over hours of operation for drinking establishments. Although licenses would still be issued through the provincial government, local government and the public input process would determine the outcome of an application in most cases. Also, local government will be able to set hours of operation for drinking establishments, up to a maxium of being open to 4 a.m. That measure, he says, will cut down on the frequency of illegal establishments that typically open up when licensed bars close.
“We’ll still issue the licenses, but in the end it will be local government that decides what is good for them,” says Coleman.
The proposed changes will go through a public consultation process before coming before cabinet later in the spring.