Liquor law reform spurs cautious optimism amongst valley dining establishments

Regulatory relaxations have been suggested after gathering input from British Columbians about changes to the province’s liquor laws


After gathering input from British Columbians about changes to the province’s liquor laws, relaxations on certain regulations have been suggested, including the allowance of happy hour specials and liquor sales in grocery stores that could come into effect later this year.

But the proposed changes don’t seem to be causing much local excitement.

“The devil’s in the details,” said District of Invermere Mayor Gerry Taft. “The concepts of modernizing the rules or simplifying them, I think all of these things make sense, but I think it will depend on how they’re rolled out.”

One of Mr. Taft’s worries is that a new set of regulations will be introduced, rather than the elimination of existing ones.

“I don’t think it will be earth-shattering or interesting,” said Invermere  councillor Justin Atterbury, who co-owns the Rocky River Grill and Station Pub, adding that he won’t immediately embrace looser regulation.

He added that looser rules around happy hours  should be treated cautiously by restaurant owners, as  over-serving of alcohol could result in lawsuits.

Columbia Valley-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald agrees that many of the terms sound reasonable, but finds the timing suspicious.

“A complaint that was made was that every time they got in trouble with hydro rates or something like this, they throw something out from the liquor reforms as a distraction,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s why, but it was odd how they did it.”

Mr. Macdonald hopes to see the government thoroughly consult with the public, and make sure the new regulations will work for businesses in the valley.

Huckleberry’s family restuarant owner Rob Mason, however, told the Valley Echo that he would consider the idea of a happy hour drink special if laws permit it.

“I would probably wait and see how it works in other places before I let my place do it,” added Mr. Atterbury. Mr. Macdonald noted other provinces have already started.

“If it seems to be working in Alberta, then people are going to ask why it isn’t in place here,” said Mr. Macdonald. With any of these changes we need to see the details to know how well thought through the changes are.”