British Columbia

Hospitality industry calls for changes to new COVID-19 liquor rules

Representatives from B.C.'s hospitality industry are urging the government to reconsider new COVID-19 rules which prevent liquor sales in all bars, pubs and restaurants after 10 p.m.

B.C. industry representatives push for liquor service hours to be extended until midnight

Bars and restaurants must stop serving alcohol at 10 p.m. under the new amendments to public health orders. (Ron Wilson)

Representatives from B.C.'s hospitality industry are urging the government to reconsider new COVID-19 rules which prevent liquor sales in all bars, pubs and restaurants after 10 p.m.

In a letter addressed to officials including Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Premier John Horgan, the Business Technical Advisory Panel on Liquor Policy says the new time limit will drive people to unsafe private gatherings and have a detrimental effect on businesses.

The letter calls for sales to be allowed to continue until midnight.

"In our view, it is simply unfair to treat moderate and responsible alcohol consumption as problematic in one place just because a small number of people may be behaving irresponsibly in a completely different place and in different circumstances," the letter says.

Henry announced the closure of nightclubs and stand-alone banquet halls as well as the 10 p.m. cut-off time on Tuesday, as cases of COVID-19 continue to spike in the province.

The advisory panel includes representatives for restaurants, distillers, vintners and craft brewers. They argue the rationale for cutting liquor sales off doesn't make sense and say there are major concerns over the economic consequences.

Executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees, Jeff Guignard, said the new rules could result in mass business closures and job losses if these policies continue for significant period of time. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Jeff Guignard, executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees, is part of the panel and said only a small number of pubs, bars and restaurants are to blame for risky conditions leading to spread of COVID-19.

"We really think punishing the remainder of the industry, the 90 per cent of them that are doing an excellent job of keeping cases down, is just not the right approach here," he said.

Guignard predicts people will gather and drink in places with no restrictions.

"What'll happen is that it will drive customers underground. So we'll ask them to stop drinking at 10 p.m. and they'll simply go to a private party where no one is monitoring their consumption," he said.

The Ministry of Health said it has received the letter, and explained in a written statement that the decision was not made lightly.

"In recent weeks, public health teams have been heavily focused on responding to community clusters and exposure events in high risk, uncontrolled locations like nightclubs and bars. We know that when alcohol is involved, and there's mixing of unconnected social groups going on, transmission has been happening," the ministry said.

 

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