NB restaurant owners, industry experts call for changes to liquor laws

Adrienne South/Global News

Restaurant owners and industry experts are calling on the New Brunswick government to update liquor laws in the province, prompted by changes made to Nova Scotia’s own regulations on Tuesday.

READ MORE: NS changes restaurant liquor regulations allowing drinks without meal

The change in Nova Scotia meant restaurants with valid liquor licences to be able to sell up to two alcoholic drinks to patrons without needing a meal to be ordered. Before the change, if a customer did not order a meal they would not be served a drink or – if the restaurant had one – would be required to move to a designated lounge area.

Restaurants Canada Atlantic vice-president Luc Erjavec said the legislation in New Brunswick is “very, very, very old.”  Erjavec said the industry has changed a lot over the past 20 years and told Global News parts of the Liquor Control Act are still left over from Prohibition.

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He said it’s time the government and industry experts work “hand-in-hand” to update the province’s legislation, which would also help small business in the province.

“In terms of New Brunswick [it] is a really old piece of legislation that really isn’t up to snuff with modern business practices,” Erjavec said.

In an emailed statement to Global News, Justice and Public Safety Department spokesperson Elaine Bell said the government recognizes the need to remove red-tape for the hospitality industry and make the rules more reflective of today’s society. She also said they’re watching “with interest” how the recent changes to Nova Scotia’s legislation develop.

Confusing legislation

Cannon’s Cross Pub general manager Ryan Thornton said the current legislation is “archaic” and said it can be quite confusing.  Thornton also said the pub has to turn away at least one or two groups of customers every day to meet regulations.

Thornton said minors aren’t allowed into the pub without a legal guardian even if they just want to order pop and a sandwich.  He said the regulations are also an inconvenience when sports teams come in because they can’t serve coaches and minors without having every child’s parents present. But Thornton said the same legislation is confusing when it comes to minors who have their parents with them.

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“You can buy your 17 or 18-year-old a glass of wine or a bottle of beer and there’s nothing we can do about it because that’s in the legislation,” Thornton said.

“So [the government is] saying it’s fine as long as the parents are here for them to have alcohol, but if the parents are not here we just can’t give them a glass of pop and a sandwich.”

When it comes to turning away whole teams, Thornton said it’s a major loss of business because they have to turn people away at the door.

READ MORE: New B.C. liquor laws come into effect today

King Street Ale House owner Doug Williams said he agrees that there need to be changes made because he’s also had to turn away minors who want to come for lunch or dinner.

Williams said the Ale House has a lounge licence, meaning people are allowed to come in just for drinks without having to order food, but according to the Act anyone under the age of 19 cannot enter a lounge without a parent or spouse. But if they were to switch to a dining room licence, customers would have to order food in order to get an alcoholic beverage.

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Williams said it’s frustrating to turn away teenagers, especially when it comes to special occasions.

“Valentine’s Day is a day for young couples and we can’t have two 18-year-olds come in here and just drink a pop and have dinner.  They’re not allowed to based on our license,” Williams said.

He said he’s always hopeful things will change to at least “drag legislation into the 1990s.”

“I’m not looking for anything even current, I just think if we got within 20 years of the rest of North America I think that would be a victory,” Williams said.

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