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Whistler Jazz Fest Runs into LCLB Special Occasion Restrictions

The new Whistler jazz festival, Jazz on the Mountain, which is scheduled for the Labour Day weekend has been denied a special occasion license on the terms that it requested. The festival had requested a site wide festival license from the LCLB so that patrons could consume beer or wine throughout the festival area without being separated from their families and friends: see press release from the festival. However, the LCLB has indicated that it will only issue a \”beer garden\” type special occasion license for the main event area which would require that all those wanting a drink go to a fenced off separate area. The distinction was the subject of recent reforms in Ontario where the provincial government determined that it made no sense to restrict alcohol consumption to segregated areas. Coincidentally, the founder of the festival is prominent Ontario liquor licensing lawyer, Arnold Schwisberg, who believes that the LCLB has improperly exercised its discretion in refusing the site wide license. In my view, the provisions of the statute and regulations which deal with special occasion licenses are out-dated and inadequate. They do not deal with the issue of \”beer gardens\” or segregating guests within a licensed event: these restrictions stem from LCLB \”policy\” rather than from the law. Once again, this issue proves that BC\’s archaic liquor laws need to be completely overhauled.

UPDATE (2011-08-26): The Whistler Question continues to cover this story: Jazz on the Mountain Liquor License Denied and Court Proceedings Expected Against Liquor Board. According to these stories, the festival will commence legal action against the LCLB. Whistler\’s Pique newsmagazine also covers the story, revealing that the GranFondo cycling event has also been denied a site-wide license despite having been granted one by the LCLB for the exact same event in 2010. Whistler\’s mayor and city council have now indicated that they will contact Victoria to try and get these policies changed.

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