Happy hour and minimum pricing in B.C.

B.C. has officially opened the door to happy hours and implemented minimum drink pricing.

B.C. has officially opened the door to happy hours and implemented minimum drink pricing.

“Consistent with the views heard from both industry and health advocates during the Liquor Policy Review, B.C.’s minimum drink prices are in place to encourage responsible consumption and are based on ounces of alcohol sold at licensed establishments,” the government noted in making the announcement Friday.

The minimum price an establishment can charge is $3 for a drink – which, for example, would buy a single ounce cocktail, a five ounce glass of wine or 12 ounce sleeve of beer or cider.

Allowing licensees, such as pubs, restaurants and lounges, to alter their liquor prices throughout the course of the day is a pocket-book friendly change for British Columbians that will help the industry attract customers at times when business may typically be slow, the government said.

Additional changes stemming from the Liquor Policy Review also came into effect today — cutting red tape and simplifying liquor licensing rules.

Food-primary establishments must continue to offer a full menu, but if patrons simply wish to order drinks they are not obligated to order food as well, the government press release said.

The new rules also allow customers to move freely with their beverage from one adjoining licensed area to another, such as from a pub to an adjoining restaurant, which the government described it as “a common-sense change from the previous rules, which required staff to carry customers’ drinks for them.”

Licensees may also now transfer small amounts of liquor between similar types of establishments. For instance, if a pub is experiencing a shortage of a specific liquor product, a nearby restaurant can transfer liquor to it, or a liquor store can transfer alcohol to another store with the same kind of liquor licence.

“These changes are a major step forward in modernizing the province’s liquor laws,” said Mark von Schellwitz, Restaurants Canada’s vice president, Western Canada. “The new rules are much more clear and reasonable for owners, servers and their guests. Allowing business owners to transfer liquor between one another is a simple change that will help ensure they have their customers’ favourite products in stock.”

Schellwitz added the changes made today will boost industry investment and job creation, and help ensure a strong and vibrant restaurant and foodservice industry.

“Restaurants Canada applauds Premier Clark and the B.C. government for implementing them.”

Hosts of family Special Occasion Licence (SOL) events may now serve homemade and UBrew/UVin beer, wine or cider — offering further flexibility for consumers. And owners of UBrews and UVins, as well as their family members, are now permitted to own other liquor-related establishments.