Barley Mowat 

Liquor Policy Review

with 4 comments

I guess you want my opinion on the whole liquor review thing, eh? For those not in the know, the BC Government has finally admitted what we’ve been screaming at it for decades: our provincial liquor policy is outdated and draconian. Rules that might have made sense in the period immediately post-prohibition just no longer apply almost a century later.

And frankly the dumping of infused vodka in False Creek
and tommy-gunning restaurateurs who allow BYO Beer was a bit extreme*

* Yes – Restaurants infusing their own spirits or allowing customers to bring in their own beer are illegal under current legislation

I like this initiative, and think it’s long overdue. The whole “host a website to solicit public feedback” thing is pretty nifty too. So you, being a beer-blog-reading type of person, are likely the sort of folk that might actually provide some feedback. So, what should you say?

First, you might as well delete that email you’ve already half-written about selling liquor in grocery and convenience stores. Yes, we all want that. It’s already been asked enough to be on the government’s RADAR, and they’ve already written a post on their website about it.

That reads almost like a “no way” response. Of course, it has to be phrased as an open discussion since that’s how the government is positioning this whole thing, but I can’t help but notice Mr Yap didn’t go straight to the “but… but… health!” argument when talking about selling liquor at farmer’s markets (which, btw, would be cool. Please do this).

I also expect that discussion around the government getting out of liquor retail will be off the board as well. The retail arm does generate around $900 million a year and once you get addicted to that level of cash flow it’s hard to give it up. So, this review won’t be revolutionary. It won’t lead to the balls-out awesomeness I’ve called for before. What WILL it be, then?

Yeah, no. Not even a chance. Sorry about that.
(This is a growler station in a grocery store)

Well, it will be evolutionary, and there will be at least some movement towards modernity. To even perform this whole process in the first place shows some budging from the LCLB’s long-held stance of “everything we do is perfectly reasonable and justifiable” to a semi-more sane position of “you know what, it IS weird that you can’t have a bottle of wine at a picnic, isn’t it?”

Yup, you heard that right, drinking of at least some liquor in at least some forms of public spaces (parks/beaches) is being considered, but all these things will be dropped unless you the public chimes in (although the only way to do so appears to be via comments on blog topics chosen by Mr Yap).

Individual consumers aren’t the only ones that can speak out. CAMRA had a meeting with Yap recently, and you can read their requests here. In general I agree with most things they’ve asked for, although I’d like to see pubs and retail stores be able to sell growler fills in addition to producers (and arguing for enforcement of current policy re:pint sizes should be a separate conversation from a review/revision of policy in general).

Heck, even the Campaign for Culture has chimed in here with a not-unreasonable list of suggestions, backed by some pretty solid research.

In the end, this is a move in the right direction, and the folks being granted face-to-face meetings with Mr Yap are doing the smart thing: pushing for minor adjustments to the existing policy, which are more likely to get passed than wholesale change.

However, keep in mind that these interest groups are not always as aligned with consumer goals as the CFC and CAMRA, who are two consumer-focused organizations. Restaurant groups will want changes that allow them to make more money, whereas MADD and health officers know that liquor can be bad and want it controlled.

Ultimately, the only way to make sure that your voice is heard is to join the conversation. You can do that on the website, or by emailing

Written by chuck

September 26th, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Posted in Beer and You

4 Responses to 'Liquor Policy Review'

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  1. Drinking in public is a great example, the problems that, on occasion, arise from it are really problems covered by other laws (breach of the peace, underage drinking). There is no reason we need a separate law that also hurts rational people. I didn’t think of that one before.


    26 Sep 13 at 15:39

  2. Just to let you know Chuck, we did advocate for bars and restaurants, as well as farmers markets to be able to fill growlers and not just of craft beer, but for small, local wineries as well.
    The idea was very well received at our meeting.
    As well, the idea of selling beer and wine at grocery stores may be gaining some purchase with the gov’t types. It was my distinct feeling that it may not be as off the table as you may think.
    Finally, we touched upon the “health” aspects of alcohol sales and our CAMRA presentation brought up the fact that there are many issues at play in regards to alcohol abuse, many relating to mental health, socio-economic issues, social problems in our society and not just the sale of alcohol.
    It was interesting to hear from those met with that that was something that the “healthcare people” had mentioned and something that the government was being aware of…just making alcohol harder to get and more expensive is not going to directly decrease social problems with the small percentage of the population who have major booze issues.
    I just thought I’d add to you conversation with my impressions from our meeting.
    Paddy Treavor
    President, CAMRA Powell River
    VanEast Beer Blog

    Paddy Treavor

    27 Sep 13 at 16:47

  3. @Paddy – Thanks for the detailed update. As always, your comments are extremely welcome.


    27 Sep 13 at 17:02

  4. I would like to echo Paddy’s sentiments in that I came away hopeful from the CAMRA BC meeting with John Yap and representatives from the Premier’s and Attorney General’s offices. Nevertheless, I expect you are correct in that change will be evolutionary, not revolutionary.

    Unfortunately, in the government’s bid to give the appearance of taking a balanced approach to liquor reform, I expect organizations like MADD and CARBC will have a disproportionate influence on policy. It is not that the issues they highlight are of little consequence. Rather, in an attempt to prevent harm to a minority, their solution is to fetter the majority in BC even more than the significant restrictions currently in place!

    Substance abuse isn’t necessarily inherent in the substance itself, it often comes from mental health problems or an inability to cope with stress. Increase restrictions on alcohol, people will seek relief in other substances, legal or otherwise. While it makes the numbers for alcohol look better, it does nothing for the overall health of British Columbians by not addressing the underlying problems that lead to abuse. And to put this into perspective, chronic illness from poor diet and lack of exercise is a far greater issue.

    This is but one example of the difficulty with reforming liquor laws. The way we interact with liquor can be affected by other factors, even something seemingly as boring as urban planning. Consider how much impaired driving might be reduced if we minimized sprawl, making it more cost-effective for better public transit. And if zoning were more mixed overall, options for going out to enjoy an evening at the pub or having a nice meal with wine could be more within walking distance. But this isn’t part of the conversation… while the government invests more in expanding roadway, spurring more growth in bedroom communities that will just perpetuate this problem.

    Rick Green

    29 Sep 13 at 01:21

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