The Government of B.C. announced its second major round of changes in the wake of the B.C. Liquor Policy Review, which wrapped up in November after two months of consultations.
The first round included a provision that would allow some liquor stores apply to sell alcohol and for facilities like ski hills and golf courses to temporarily extend their licensed area to another part of the property.
The second round of announcements from last week includes a provision that would allow brewers, vintners and distillers to sample their wares at public venues like farmers markets, as well as a provisions that would allow children into pubs, bars and restaurants that serve alcohol until a set time. Bars would also be able to offer discounts through happy hour events.
Joey Gibbons, manager of the Gibbons Hospitality Group (which includes Buffalo Bills, Tapley’s, the Longhorn and The FireRock Lounge) said most of the new changes in respect to bars and nightclubs will have little impact in Whistler.
In regards to allowing parents with children into drinking establishments like bars and legion halls, Whistler already has had the ability to allow kids into bars for several years until 8 p.m.
“That was a trial piece for mountain resorts, we’ve had it for years and it’s been a big success, and now the province is adopting it for everywhere else,” he said.
As for happy hour, he said Whistler bars are in a different situation than bars in Vancouver, and most bars are already busy in the afternoon with après ski.
“We (Gibbons group) do have bars in Ontario where they’ve always had happy hour, but we don’t really do it over there,” he said.
“I think that your business becomes successful because of the service you provide, or maybe you’ll do giveaways and promotions to get people in, but deep discounting is a race to the bottom for everybody. The bars that do happy hours are never the busiest places, wherever you go.
“Instead, we’re adding value by bringing in bands and DJs and serving really good food and good quality steak, and that’s why people want to go there.”
In the end, he said it will be up to the municipality, with advice from the local Liquor Licence Advisory Committee and feedback from the local bar and nightclub association, that determines how the new laws are applied locally.
For example, when bars on Granville won the right to open until 4 a.m., the stakeholders on the committee decided that wasn’t a good policy for Whistler, given the number of guests staying in the village and the potential for keeping them awake.
“We have a really good program in place with the Liquor Licence Advisory Committee, the bar group meets monthly, and we have really strong communication all around,” he said.
“We’ve never had better collaboration as far as Serving It Right, and the experience for people coming to the community has never been stronger.
“We kind of have the perfect mix (of restaurants and bars) right now, and the first priority is always to create an awesome experience for our guests, regardless what is going on with the rest of the province.”
Most of the changes to the liquor law are regulatory or cut red tape. Some are just common sense initiatives — a winery’s tasting room will now be able to serve someone a beer even if it’s not brewed on site, for example.
For more on the recommended changes, which will come into effect in 2014, visit http://engage.gov.bc.ca/liquorpolicyreview/.