On June 20, the Ministry of Justice officially announced the introduction of happy hours and minimum pricing for licensed establishments in B.C.
Liquor laws were modified in response to views received by the province from industry and health advocates.
Licensed establishments can now alter their liquor prices throughout the day. The change was made to help businesses attract customers during periods of the day when business is slow.
Additional changes were also made to cut red tape and simplfy liquor licensing rules.
Food-primary establishments must continue to offer a full menu, but patrons who simply want a drink will not have to order food as well. Customers will also now be allowed to move from one adjoining licensed area to another, as long as there is a link between the two rooms.
Licensees can now transfer small amounts of liquor between similar types of establishments as well.
Those who have a Special Occasion License now have more flexibility to serve homemade beer, wine, or cider, and owners of Ubrews and Uvin, as well as their family members, will now be permitted to own other liquor related establishments, something that was not legal before.
Keremeos Legion Manager Mike Favel said the Legion has no plans yet to implement a happy hour.
“Our prices are quite reasonable to start with,” he said, “we haven’t discussed the new policy changes yet.” Favel also noted the Legion’s weekly Friday “member appreciation day” where special prices are offered all day.
“I don’t see happy hour prices as something we’d need in addition to what we have,” he said.
At the recently opened Wrong Turn Tavern, proprietor Liza Needham said she plans to introduce a happy hour, probably from 3 to 5 p.m. daily.
“We’re planning different drink specials and reduced beer prices during that time,” she said. New regulations allowing the ordering of alcohol without food should serve to make restaurants more publike, she added.
Suzzanne Siemens of the Branding Iron said they plan to introduce a happy hour from 3 to 5 p.m., Tuesday to Friday, and weekends from 4 to 5 p.m.
“It gives us an opportunity to bring in people who wouldn’t normally come in at that time,” she said, “it should help to boost business at that time of day.”
Siemans also expressed concerns about changing liquor laws and their effect on village business.
“We have concerns about too many outlets doing too much of the same thing,” she said, noting the increasing number of food and alcohol vendors in the village.
Laurel Dierdorf, manager at the Red Bridge Pub and the Keremeos Hotel Liquor Store, hopes her business will be helped by a change in legislation that now allows her to transfer a limited amount of product between associate stores.
“We’re now allowed to move merchandise between outlets,” she said, “which will allow me to restock my store from one of our associated stores in the Okanagan.”
As far as happy hour prices go, Dierdorf said, “What has changed here is that establishments now have the opportunity to adjust their prices through the day, but we’re now subject to a minumum price, which didn’t apply before.” As an example, Dierdorf said “Toonie Tuesdays” at the Red Bridge Pub were gone, as with mimimum pricing (25 cents per ounce for beer) the minimum price of a glass of beer would now be $2.25.
What concerns Dierdorf is the opportunity the new legislation gives liquor establishments with “food primary” licenses to operate as pubs.
“Food primary licenses now no longer mean your patrons have to order food,” she said, “which could open the door for these businesses to operate like pubs in order to fill in slow periods in their business.”
Dierdorf recently attended a village council meeting to caution council about the licensing changes, and urge them to become familiar with liquor laws and the effect they can have on a small community like Keremeos. She is also concerned about the new law that allows minors in liquor primary establishments, and how that might affect lives – and business – in the village.
“I really think the village and council need to educate themselves with respect to the liquor industry – the village also needs to be conscious of the draw on resources (RCMP) changing liquor legislation might have.
“Overall, I’m pleased and excited to see the province making these changes to liquor licensing – they were long overdue. But we need to monitor their effect on the community.”