The government's latest step in liquor policy reform is to contemplate altered penalties for bars and stores that run afoul of the regulations.

The government's latest step in liquor policy reform is to contemplate altered penalties for bars and stores that run afoul of the regulations.

B.C. eyes looser liquor penalties for bars, stores

Industry seeks more flexible system for punishment as province takes next step in liquor regulation reform

The province is contemplating changing how it punishes pubs, restaurants and liquor stores that violate liquor rules that ban over-serving and selling to minors.

Business owners have asked government for a more flexible penalty system and a month-long online consultation running to Sept. 30 asks stakeholders for input on the options.

One possibility to be explored is lower or higher penalties.

According to a government discussion paper released Friday, B.C. penalties are stiffer than most other provinces.

“Decreasing penalties would bring British Columbia in closer alignment with the average among the provinces,” it says, noting government must balance business hardship and the need for deterrence for public safety.

A first offence for a B.C. liquor establishment typically means a one- to three-day suspension for overcrowding and 10 days or a $7,500 fine for selling to a minor (the first-offence maximum is $10,000 and 15 days for serving minors.)

Alberta bars have a choice of paying a fine or serving a suspension – which is one of the ideas up for consideration – and most operators there choose the fine, which is typically $500 to $1,500 on a public safety first offence.

The stiffest penalties are in Ontario, where suspensions of 21 days and longer are  are common.

Another issue is perceived unfairness of the current system for different business types.

Food-primary outlets can keep on serving food during a suspension, while liquor-primary bars and retail stores must close entirely.

That raises the question of whether fines are a better option, the paper says.

It adds the penalties must spur liquor violators to voluntary compliance and not be so low they’re merely treated as a cost of doing business.

Fines or suspensions get more onerous with repeat offences, potentially leading to licence cancellations.

But a second offence is only counted as such if it happens within 12 months of the first one – after a year the slate is clean.

One option is to increase that period to two or three years, which would put more pressure on repeat offenders whose subsequent penalties would be more severe.

Another question asks if repeat offences should be fines rather than suspensions.

The consultation is in response to recommendations flowing from the liquor policy review headed by BC Liberal MLA John Yap.

“We have been asking for review of the penalty schedule for a while,” said Jeff Guignard, executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees, which represents a broad spectrum of bars, stores and other liquor sellers.

He said a $7,000 fine for failing to check an ID could be a month of profit for a mom-and-pop rural liquor store in northern B.C., but negligible to a big Vancouver bar.

Guignard also favours some mechanism to reward an outlet’s good compliance over past years, perhaps akin to how motorists with a long crash-free record build up safe driving discounts with ICBC.

There were 13,415 inspections of liquor licensees last year, resulting in just under 400 contravention notices or nearly three per cent of inspections. But of those, less than half (171) led to enforcement action being taken.

The most common violation in recent years has been supplying liquor to minors, followed by permitting an intoxicated person to remain on the premises.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Maggie Ferguson continues to deliver pet food to communities in B.C’s Central Interior and North. She hopes to make things easier by eventually purchasing a truck and trailer through fundraising efforts. (Perfect Pastures Animal Sanctuary Facebook photo)
From Delta with love, Maggie Ferguson helps northern pet owners with food

Animal sanctuary owner leads efforts in delivering thousands of pounds of pet food

A man wearing a mask against coronavirus walks past an NHS advertisement about COVID-19 in London, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
92 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths: Interior Health

The region is reporting 92 cases after the weekend

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

Williams Lake RCMP are investigating after suspects assaulted two employees at a convenience store and fled with cash and merchandise. (Black Press file photo)
Williams Lake RCMP investigating robbery at local convenience store

The robbery occurred Saturday evening, Feb. 27

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A student from Dawson Creek is the winner of Tolko’s Orange Shirt Day design contest for 2021. (Tolko photo)
Tolko contest features northern winner

Student from Dawson Creek beats out entries Canadawide for Orange Shirt Day design contest win

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

Vernon’s Noric House long-term care facility’s COVID-10 outbreak has been declared over by Interior Health. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
COVID outbreak at Vernon’s Noric House declared over

10 deaths were linked to the outbreak at long-term care facility

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Churches, including Langley’s Riverside Calvary Church, are challenging the regulations barring them from holding in-person worship services during COVID-19. (Langley Advance Times file)
Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Most Read