B.C. Premier Christy Clark says her government is in favour of huge changes to the province's liquor laws, including allowing children to enter pubs and allowing happy hour offers.
Clark's Liberal government is reviewing B.C.'s liquor laws, saying rules and regulations governing alcohol require modernization. Last month, Liberal parliamentary secretary John Yap submitted a report to the Justice Ministry that included 70 recommended changes.
On Tuesday, Clark announced her support for several of those recommendations, which she said updated "antiquated licensing rules to reflect what British Columbians actually want, while continuing to protect public safety."
Under the recommendations, minors would be allowed into establishments that primarily serve liquor, for example pubs and legions, up until a certain time.
Happy hours would also be permitted, although drinks would be subject to minimum pricing, Clark said.
In addition, customers in restaurants or bars which primarily serve food would not be required to order food with their drinks.
Customers would also be allowed to move freely with their alcoholic drinks from one adjoining licensed area to another — for example, between a summer patio and an indoor section of the pub.
"Families should be able to dine together in their neighbourhood pub. Consumers should be free to order whatever they want in a restaurant,” Clark said in a written statement Tuesday.
"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."
The changes would also expand B.C.'s responsible beverage service program, Serving it Right, to include all hospitality industry workers who serve alcohol.
For the first time, all servers in B.C.'s 5,600 licensed restaurants would be required to participate, as well as staff at B.C. Liquor Stores and rural agency and wine stores.
Booze in B.C. grocery stores?
Earlier this month, Clark watered down expectations of beer-and-wine sales in grocery stores, another of Yap’s key recommendations.
Some 75 per cent of people who submitted comments to a liquor policy review consultation website, which launched in September, endorsed the idea.
But speaking at a news conference in West Kelowna earlier in December, Clark said the proposal still needs work due to public safety concerns.
Yap’s plan would see a phased-in approach to selling liquor in grocery stores, keeping liquor and food sales separate and maintaining a cap on the number of liquor retail outlets in the province.
The B.C. government has said Yap's report will be released publicly — partially over the coming weeks and in its entirety in the New Year, when it is expected that the government will make a final decision on any new liquor laws.