Last call for alcohol: Frustration over B.C. order halting New Year’s Eve liquor sales at 8 p.m

Click to play video: 'B.C. restaurants cope with shortened New Year’s Eve hours to sell liquor'
B.C. restaurants cope with shortened New Year’s Eve hours to sell liquor
B.C. restaurants cope with shortened New Year's Eve hours to sell liquor – Dec 31, 2020

An advocate for B.C.’s hospitality industry has expressed frustration over a provincial order that put the brakes on alcohol sales at restaurants, pubs and stores on New Year’s Eve.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Wednesday that the last call for alcohol will be at 8 p.m. on Thursday and the ban continues until 9 a.m. on New Year’s Day.

Henry said the order is designed to limit risky behaviour that may be fuelled by alcohol.

Click to play video: 'B.C. bars and restaurants not happy with last-minute New year’s Eve restrictions'
B.C. bars and restaurants not happy with last-minute New year’s Eve restrictions

“I absolutely know that there will be some people, particularly young people, who want to gather at this time of year so we want to keep those small,” she said.

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“But moving it up to earlier in the evening, hopefully we’ll take that risk away.”

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Jeff Guignard, executive director with the Alliance of Beverage Licensees, said the order is yet another blow to the beleaguered hospitality sector.

“Frustration is not strong enough a word,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Business impact as province bans liquor sales on New Year’s Eve'
Business impact as province bans liquor sales on New Year’s Eve

“So I’d say leaving that aside, the arbitrary decision to end liquor sales at 8 p.m. is somewhere between illogical and stupid. Industry is angry about this.

“This order was issued at the last minute without any consultation after people had booked reservations after we planned special menus, brought in extra inventory, after we’d scheduled staff, actually stocked up on alcohol.”

He notes that the province banned alcohol sales after 10 p.m. in restaurants in September and weeks later had to pass an order banning home gatherings as people started getting together at private residences.

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“When you think of how restaurants and pubs feel about this, after the year we’ve had with so many businesses on the verge of bankruptcy, after following the most stringent public health protocols ever issued in our sector, people feel profoundly let down, betrayed and disrespected.

“How would you feel if you found out this was happening the day before? All we had to do is have this conversation a week ago and industry could have adapted.”

Vancouver police are reminding the public that there will be officers on patrol throughout the city, including in Gastown and the Granville entertainment districts, to enforce public health orders around social gatherings.

Officers will also be looking for impaired drivers and CounterAttack roadblocks will be in effect.

Police are also reminding the public that TransLink will not be offering free transit on New Year’s Eve this year due to COVID-19 measures around social gatherings.

Some establishments in Metro Vancouver say they are going to ring in the new year on East Coast time.

Vancouver’s Alphabet City posted on social media that it will ring in the new year at 7:30 p.m. when the clock strikes midnight in Newfoundland.

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Henry, who grew up in the Maritimes, said she likes the idea and hopes that it will prevent more people from celebrating in the streets.

— With files from Richard Zussman and The Canadian Press

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