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City’s liquor policy review supports local economy and enhances vibrancy

June 8 2017

“Recent changes in provincial liquor regulations present an opportunity to update City licensing policies to support local arts, culture and general social engagement,” says Kaye Krishna, General Manager of Development, Buildings and Licensing.

People drinking at an outdoor festival

After engaging deeply with the public, businesses, and stakeholders, City staff will take 32 recommendations from its liquor policy review to City Council for approval.

We are aiming to refresh the existing liquor licensing policies to foster creativity, community connection, and local economy and to respond to the recently introduced Provincial Directives amending liquor regulation.

We also sought opportunities to streamline regulations and strengthen enforcement.

Underpinning the review was evidence of the significant impacts liquor can have on public health as well as the ongoing safety and public order issues associated with high concentrations of bars and liquor stores in the Downtown East Side (DTES) and the Granville Entertainment District (GED).

“Recent changes in provincial liquor regulations present an opportunity to update City licensing policies to support local arts, culture, and general social engagement,” says Kaye Krishna, General Manager of Development, Buildings and Licensing. “In this policy review we sought to strike a balanced approach that enables more choices for individuals and businesses while factoring in the immediate and longer term social and public health harms of liquor, particularly in communities with higher levels of access to alcohol.”

Main goals

Based on the public and stakeholder consultation where diverse opinions and priorities were shared, we formed three main goals to inform the liquor policy updates:

  1. Protect health, safety, and community livability
  2. Foster creativity, community connection, and local economy
  3. Ensure effective and efficient regulatory framework

Highlights of the recommended changes

From these goals, highlights of the recommended changes to the liquor policy include:

  • Allowing grocery stores to sell wine, beer, and liquor through a store-in-store model, which is one of two models enabled by the Province. Grocery stores seeking to sell alcohol would also be subject to the same City conditions and constraints as other liquor retail outlets.
  • Allowing arts and culture establishments, such as art galleries and museums to sell alcohol. These organizations could benefit from revenue earned through the sale of alcoholic drinks during regular business hours.
  • Enhancing patio culture by providing increased opportunities for outdoor liquor seats, while also maintaining ‘good neighbor’ agreements and other rules to mitigate impacts to adjacent properties.
  • Allowing liquor manufacturers, such as craft breweries or local distilleries, to expand their lounge hours until midnight and apply for extended hours for special events up to six times a year.
  • Supporting applications from food primaries (restaurants) to operate as liquor primaries (bars) after 10:00pm, subject to all liquor primary requirements. Current rules require restaurants to keep their kitchens open while liquor is being served and many restaurants have indicated this is a burden to local businesses who do not see demand for food at late hours.
  • Requiring liquor establishments to publish drink sizes and strengths on their menus so patrons can have better information when making drink choices.
  • Piloting a “last entry” program along Granville Street to help manage crowds outside of clubs and bars. One hour before closing, establishments will not allow re-entry of existing patrons or for new patrons to enter.

Our recommendations

We will also recommend maintaining the moratoria on new bars and liquor stores in the Downtown Eastside and Granville Entertainment District (GED) due to ongoing challenges associated with high levels of access to alcohol. 

This recommendation is accompanied by a commitment to collaborate with partners in those communities to address issues related to liquor sales and reconsider the moratoria as conditions change. 

There are already a number of related community-building initiatives underway, including the Healthy City Strategy, the Downtown Eastside Plan, Viva Vancouver, and Downtown Business Improvement Association’s Granville Refresh initiative, which will work toward achieving a vision for Granville Street as an active shopping and restaurant district.

Our recommendations consider implications for the social health and well-being of the general public and for sub-populations such as children, youth, and people with addictions. To that end, recommendations also support strengthening public education, support programs, and enforcement, which rely on partnerships with Vancouver Coastal Health, the provincial Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB), Vancouver Police Department, and others to implement.

View the full Council report