The BC Government released its full Liquor Policy Review Report today and announced that it is supporting all of the 73 recommendations in the report. The report is very wide ranging and includes specific recommendations related to most sectors of the industry, some of which are summarized below. The only exceptions are general recommendations related to distribution and pricing, which presumably may become the subject of future changes. At a press conference for the release, the responsible Minister indicated that the government will move as quickly as it can to implement the changes but that some reforms will obviously take longer than others.

Previously announced changes that will benefit wineries include: increased promotion of BC wine products, simplifying licensing requirements for low risk activities such as picnic areas at wineries, streamlining licensing processes for wineries, allowing the sampling and sale of wine at farmers' markets, making it easier for consumers to purchase wine at tasting events (including temporary on-site private and government stores), and allowing secondary tasting rooms for wineries.

Previously announced changes for restaurants and bars include: allowing happy hour specials subject to minimum pricing guidelines, allowing minors into pubs with their families subject to guidelines, removal of requirements to order food in restaurants when ordering a drink, flexibility in operating an establishment so as to allow conversion from food-primary to liquor-primary at a certain hour.

Major changes announced today include: an appeal process for the decisions of the LCLB, the demise of fenced off beer gardens, an overhaul of the special occasion licensing system, simpler licensing for stadiums and theatres, the removal of restrictions on sampling of alcohol, allowing off-site storage for private licensees, allowing growler service in retail stores, and site-wide licensing for hotels (e.g. take a drink from one part of the hotel up to your room).

Those interested in a full analysis of these policy changes including potential business opportunities and challenges may wish to attend the 2014 Wine and Liquor Law Conference in Vancouver on February 24th which is dedicated to a sector by sector discussion of the reforms. Those employed in the wine and liquor industry are eligible for a discounted tuition rate of $300 for registration at the conference.

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