Unhappy hour comes to B.C. pubs that must now raise prices
20 oz pint of beer will cost at least $5 under B.C.'s new minimum pricing regulations
Happy hour has arrived in B.C. but not everyone is raising a glass to celebrate.
As the province announced the introduction of variable drink pricing Friday, it paired the change with new rules on the lowest before-tax prices that can be charged for drinks:
- $2 is the absolute minimum price that can be charged for a drink, and would apply to a single ounce shot of a spirit.
- $3 is the minimum charge for a five-ounce glass of wine, a 12 oz sleeve of beer or cider or a 341 mL bottle or 355 mL can of beer, cider or cooler.
- $5 is the minimum charge for a 20 oz pint of draft beer or cider.
Those minimum price means some pubs will actually have to boost their prices, and charge more for their least expensive brews.
Steve Bauer, of Vancouver's Pumpjack Pub, says customers may soon find the cost of a pitcher of beer has jumped by five dollars or more.
"The 60 ounce jugs are going up to a minimum of $15, tax out, which takes you to over $17 dollars for a jug," he said. "A lot of people on this street aside from ourselves and restaurants, you'll [have seen] them for $11, $12. So that's all gone!"
The province says it consulted many businesses before implementing changes to B.C.'s liquor regulations, and B.C. Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton said public health concerns played a role in setting minimum drink prices.
"Part of the package included health and safety. We worked very closely with industry partners, some of whom are here today, to settle on what the minimum prices should be. I think we generally got it right," she told CBC News in Kerrisdale on Saturday.
Ian Tostenson, president of the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association, says feedback from restaurateurs over minimum pricing and happy hour has been generally positive. He said many restaurants are glad they will be able to reduce drink prices in order to attract customers during slow times.
Tostenson acknowledges the change doesn't serve the same purpose for all businesses, and that some will have to raise prices.
"Yeah, most people saying that are pub guys. Most guys in the restaurant business will package this happy hour around food," Tostenson said.
At the Pumpjack, Bauer says the minimum pricing will soon end one of the pub's most popular traditions: For 14 years, crowds have gathered on Sundays, lining up at 3 p.m. for the weekly kegger where the Pumpjack offered $3 mugs of draft beer.
"We held the price at $2.90 a mug, which held 17 ounces of beer," Bauer said. "[The price of] that mug will now move, because it's draft, to about $4.90," he said.
Bauer said the tradition won't end completely, but may shift now that cocktails and bottles of beer may seem like the better specials.
"I think we'll still be able to get the people. They might shift to a different drink now, from draft. I don't know if the breweries will be happy with that, but we'll make do," he said.
Bauer said most of the liquor law changes are good news, but happy hour would have been happier if he didn't have to raise prices.
With files from the CBC's Tim Weekes