British Columbia

Vancouver barbers question value of new B.C. liquor law changes

The latest revisions to B.C.'s liquor laws come into effect today, affecting businesses from barbershops to cooking schools and art galleries — but many of them are downplaying the changes.

Province says the changes are meant to 'increase business opportunities and create a new revenue stream'

Barber Matthew Conrad shaves Matt Phllips at Victory Barber & Brand. While some small businesses are excited about recent changes to B.C.'s liquor laws, other are questioning the benefits. (Government of B.C.)

The latest revisions to B.C.'s liquor laws come into effect today, affecting businesses from barbershops to cooking schools and art galleries — but many of them are downplaying the changes.

The revisions were announced last fall as part of the more than 70 recommendations from a government report issued more than three years ago. 

Businesses will now be eligible to apply for a special event permit, something that was only previously available to non-profit organizations.

"We've been waiting for this for a very long time,"  said Leisha Osbourne with Barber & Co.

"A lot of the guys are looking forward to sitting down and having a scotch after work and get their hair cut and just kind of vent."

John Yap, Parliamentary Secretary for Liquor Policy Reform, said the changes are meant to "increase business opportunities and create a new revenue stream" for the businesses.

Parliamentary Secretary for Liquor Policy John Yap (left) introduced the new rules that allow businesses like barber shops to apply for a liquor licence last fall. (Richard Zussman/CBC)

Some businesses concerned

But not everyone is excited about the new law. Several businesses voiced concerns about restrictions and fees for the licences. 

The newly-eligible businesses can apply, but they still have to get approval from the city — which barber Tyler Johnstone doesn't think will be likely.

"It's equivalent to running 20 new bars in the area, and I don't think the city is going to go through that," said Johnstone, with Fort Knight Barbers in Gastown. 

Johnstone may have a good point.

Despite other liquor law changes allowing wine sales in B.C. grocery stores, City of Vancouver councillors rejected a staff recommendation for a one-year pilot project to allow five grocery stores to sell B.C. wine.

At the time, B.C. winemakers said they weren't getting a chance to sell their product in grocery stores across the province because municipalities were hesitant to grant the required permits.

Victory Barbers & Brand is a small chain of barber shops in Victoria and Vancouver. (CBC )

Some barbers have also balked at the application fee for the licence, which ranges from $475 to $2,000 a year.

"The costs are quite high. From what we were told will have to apply for a liquor primary because we don't have a food establishment here," said Jeff Campeau with Victory Barbers & Brand.

"We're going to carry on and put our application through and see how that goes."

Already serving drinks

Other regulations include Serving It Right certificates for staff selling drinks, and minimum pricing. 

"There can be some competition as there should be in a free market, but there is law and regulation to prevent undercutting of prices so that they're below a minimum price," Yap said.

It remains to be seen how many businesses will actually apply for the licence.

Some art galleries told CBC News they sometimes serve alcohol at openings and don't bother applying for a special occasion licence. 

Similarly, many hair salons, spas and other businesses offering aesthetic or cosmetic services already offer their clients free drinks while they get done up. 

So while the province's aim is to cut red tape, businesses might be hesitant to jump through additional hoops to serve booze legally.

With files from Angela Sterritt

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said business
    Jan 24, 2017 1:35 PM PT

now