December 17, 2013 7:00 pm
Updated: December 17, 2013 11:49 pm

Happy Hour is coming to B.C.

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Happy Hour will soon be allowed in B.C.

This was just one of the changes announced by premier Christy Clark today as part of a second set of liquor reforms in the province.

In addition, families will soon have the opportunity to eat together in B.C. pubs, legions and restaurants.

The province will also improve and expand B.C.’s responsible beverage service program, Serving It Right (SIR).

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“These changes are about updating antiquated licensing rules to reflect what  British Columbians actually want, while continuing to protect public safety,” says Clark. “Families should be able to dine together in their neighbourhood pub. Consumers should be free to order whatever they want in a restaurant. These are exactly the kind of common-sense changes to B.C.’s liquor laws we promised to make, and we’re keeping that promise.”

With minimum drink pricing consistent with the views that Parliamentary Secretary John Yap heard from health advocates during the B.C. Liquor Policy Review, the B.C. government will be opening the door to time-limited drink specials – such as happy hours.

Jeremy McElroy from Campaign for Culture says they were very pleased to hear the news about Happy Hour. They started a campaign a year-and-a-half ago to push for Happy Hour in B.C.

“We were the only province in Canada that didn’t allow it,” says McElroy.

They developed partnerships with other organizations, met with the ministry and put up petitions on their website to advocate for change.

“It all came down to why B.C. is so different than anywhere else,” says McElroy. “B.C. has never allowed Happy Hour.”

He says allowing Happy Hour does not mean the province is promoting alcoholism or making it easier for people to drink. “It’s still the responsibility of the establishment to not overserve patrons,” says McElroy. “The minimums are being set by the province. They’re just allowing businesses to say ‘hey from 4 to 9 p.m. or whatever come here and have a beverage for a cheaper price.'”

Other changes to benefit the hospitality industry include patrons not needing to order food if they would just like to have a drink in a food-primary establishment. Also, customers will be able to move freely with their drink from one adjoining licensed area to another.

“At Cactus Club Cafe, we know how important it is to provide an enjoyable and safe environment for all of our guests,” says Richard Jaffray, president and founder of Cactus Restaurants Ltd. “We applaud Premier Christy Clark and the B.C. government for taking positive steps to modernize our province’s liquor laws and regulations.”

The government will further increase flexibility around licensing by giving liquor-primary establishments and clubs, such as legions, the option to accommodate minors up until a certain hour in the evening. This means, for example, that parents will be able to take their kids for a bite to eat at a pub or to enjoy some music at a legion that chooses to be family friendly.

The Province will also extend SIR to all hospitality industry workers who serve alcohol. This will include, for the first time, all servers in B.C.’s 5,600 licensed restaurants, as well as staff at BC Liquor Stores and rural agency and wine stores.

Government’s support for these eight recommendations builds on a set of 12 others announced last week by Clark that is set to benefit tourism, small businesses and liquor manufacturers.

“We think ultimately it’s going to be good for businesses in B.C.,”says McElroy.

“Most jurisdictions have allowed [Happy Hour] for decades without there being vastly different problems.”

It is anticipated that Yap’s report on the review will be publicly released prior to Feb. 15, 2014, once Cabinet has had the opportunity to fully consider its 70-plus recommendations.

© 2013 Shaw Media

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