British Columbia

B.C. liquor review: Tasting rooms to expand liquor sales

Craft breweries, wineries and distilleries will be able to sell each other's products in their tasting rooms under new changes to B.C.'s liquor laws announced today.

Provincial liquor law changes raising concerns about tasting rooms becoming de facto pubs

Tasting rooms in B.C. will now be able to serve different kinds of liquor products, not just their own. (Kirk Williams/CBC)

Craft breweries, wineries and distilleries will be able to sell each other's products in their tasting rooms under new changes to B.C.'s liquor laws announced today. 

"We are doing away with B.C.'s archaic liquor rules," said Suzanne Anton, the minister responsible for B.C.'s liquor policy review.

"Today's change will both create more selection for consumers, and support B.C. tourism, small businesses and our many incredible liquor producers."

Previously, liquor-based businesses could only sell their own products, meaning, for example, that customers could only drink beer at a brewery tasting room.

"This is a big one for us," said Joshua Beach, partner at the Odd Society Distillery.

"A large group comes in, one person isn't interested in having a cocktail or a distilled beverage and the whole group will walk out."

The changes also mean that couples holding weddings at the tasting rooms will no longer have to buy a special occasion license if they want to serve different types of alcohol at their functions.

Beach said the change presents a welcome opportunity to cross-promote their products.

Cautiously optimistic

Jeff Guignard, executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees, agrees the changes could help craft facilities in concentrated areas to work together and offer customers a better experience. 

However, he said he had concerns the new rules would basically turn tasting rooms into de facto pubs.

"We are a little concerned when you start to expand product offerings," said Guignard. 

He says although tasting rooms will only be able to sell 20 per cent of products that are not their own, those rules are "famously difficult to enforce." 

Guignard points out that pubs must also undergo a much more stringent process to obtain a liquor primary licence.

With files from Kirk Williams

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