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NS changes restaurant liquor regulations allowing drinks without meal

NS changes restaurant liquor regulations allowing drinks without meal
WATCH ABOVE: The Nova Scotia government has announced that licensed restaurants can now serve up to two alcoholic beverages without serving food. Global's Jennifer Grudic reports.

A change to liquor licensing regulations in Nova Scotia means people will find it easier to get a drink while visiting restaurants across the province.

READ MORE: Alcohol sales dip slightly in Nova Scotia for spring: liquor corporation

On Tuesday, the provincial government announced restaurants with a valid liquor licence would be able to serve patrons two alcoholic drinks without the need for food to be purchased under the new changes.

Prior to the change, customers had to order food before they could be served alcohol or needed to move to a designated lounge area if the restaurant had one.

Restaurant owners across Halifax say the change will help with business and could even bring in new customers.

“It was hard for this restaurant because we’re in a neighbourhood and we’re not in the zoning for a lounge licence,” said Ray Bear, chef at Studio East Food and Drink. “So people coming in for a couple drinks on their way home or even after they’ve eaten somewhere and just want a couple drinks afterwards … we weren’t able to serve them.”

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Bear told Global News they did apply for a zoning licence but were denied. He said in order to try and provide for customers they would sometimes have to give away an appetizer so the customer could order a drink but that cost the business money.

He said the announcement is cause for celebration.

READ MORE: Restaurant menus in N.S. could soon include calorie counts

“It’s something that we’ve been trying for ever since we opened the restaurant,” Bear said. “Not only that, as a restaurateur it allows me to look at the city … I don’t have to pick and choose where I want to be so much now that these new rules come in, because before I’d have to go to a zone that would allow a lounge licence and now I have a little bit more freedom.”

Nicole Tufts, co-owner of Riot Snack Bar, said before Tuesday’s announcement the licensing regulations hurt business, especially at night.

“I think it’s a game changer because a lot of our business is at night and a lot of people do come in to have a drink here and we’ve turned away large groups of people and a lot of people in the community sort of had to go elsewhere,” Tufts said in an interview.

It’s also a win for Karla Nicholson of the Quinpool Road Mainstreet District Association.

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Nicholson said they’d been advocating for changes to liquor regulations to give restaurants within the district a better chance of staying open.

“It could be the difference between making it and breaking it for some of our restaurants and I think we’ve seen a few restaurants leave that might have been able to survive had this been in effect a long time ago,” Nicholson said. “And I’m hoping it’ll bring new restaurants to Quinpool Road.”

The change also means eliminating the issue some businesses faced due to location as some municipal zoning areas in Halifax prevented lounge licences to be purchased, according to Luc Erjavec with Restaurants Canada.

“What this change will do is allow us to serve our customers, eliminate the need for a second costly business licence and eliminate useless red tape that doesn’t do anything for anybody,” said Erjavec, who is vice-president Atlantic for Restaurants Canada.

Service Nova Scotia Minister Mark Furey said in a release the change would allow restaurants to stay competitive, while meeting their customers needs and doing so in a safe and responsible way.

The new regulations takes effect immediately.