British Columbia

Antiquated B.C. liquor law angers businessman

An old provincial law that prevents restaurant or pub owners from selling their own wine or beer if it's produced off-premises has got to go, one frustrated B.C. business-owner says.

Some B.C. wine and beer producers say they’d like to see an end to an old provincial law preventing them from selling their own alcoholic products in restaurants located on properties separate from their winery or brewery.

The "tied-house law" doesn’t prevent wineries, for instance, from selling their own wine in restaurants or shops on the same property as the winery.

But that’s not the case for Carbrea Vineyard owner Stephen Bishop on Hornby Island, who also owns the Sea Breeze Lodge, six kilometres away.

"Here's our Sea Breeze license here, and on this one it says the restaurant will not buy, sell, serve, gift of advertise or promote Carbrea," Bishop said.

"It's just frustrating, because part of my business plan was to have that location to be able to retail out of. So revenue-wise, I'm estimating maybe $10,000-a-year loss of revenue because of this."

Bishop has been lobbying the province to eliminate the tied-house rule, but so far, to no avail.

"Last fall, that was going to happen. And I was told in the New Year, ‘Yes, you're going to be able to do this.’ Come the New Year, it got thrown right out and we're back to scratch again," he said.

Minister hedges

The minister responsible for liquor distribution, Rich Coleman, agrees that the law is not fair and should be changed, but he’s making no promises.

"I can't give a real timeline and I can't also promise what the outcome will be, because cabinet can make whatever decision they want. But I do think there's sympathy within government with regards to this particular issue."

Bishop says he doesn’t understand the law.   "It seems like it comes down to the fact that ... it is unfair to my competitors, that I would promote my wine over somebody else's wine, which to me makes no sense."

Other pub and restaurant owners want to keep the law as it is, however, saying that in the case of beer, it prevents large breweries from owning or buying up drinking establishments and offering only their products.

With files from the CBC's Stephen Smart