City Informer: Is It Hard to Get a Liquor Licence?
Our woman on the street dives into the bylaws surrounding hawking booze.
January 18, 2019
Despite changes to liquor laws over the past few years, it can still feel like we’re living in the Prohibition era. What’s that, BIG GOVERNMENT? You’re telling me my kids can’t bring wine to school?! I’m raising them to be French, get off my BACK.
But in the course of some casual email correspondence to the Ministry of the Attorney General (at what point can you call someone a pen pal?), I
learned that there actually is an unlimited number of liquor licenses available in B.C., so I’m a little shocked that there aren’t more opportunities in my life to get a buzz on.
In fact, the number of liquor licenses has actually gone up in the last few years: combined, there are currently 8,385 food primary and liquor primary licenses in the province (1,756 of which are here in Vancouver), while only 7,650 existed in 2008. Applications that aren’t successful for reasons like zoning issues or sloppy paperwork are invited to try again; only one application over the past three years has been straight-up denied, and just three liquor licenses have been taken away in the past decade. British Columbia? More like Big-sips Pro-drunk-yee-ha! (Nailed it!)
The City of Vancouver has enacted a process that’s referred to, legally, as a “party foul.
Of course, applications have their costs, both money-wise and time-wise. A food primary license takes 12 weeks and costs $950 for the application fee and first-year licensing, while a liquor primary is $4,400 and can take anywhere from seven to 12 months to go through. Any business with four walls (sorry, food trucks) can apply for a liquor primary license unless it’s directed at minors or motor vehicles, so your tween-run car repair business is out of luck.
But for every non-kid-mechanic application to the province of B.C. (a.k.a. “Cool Mom”), you need the approval of your local government. So most of the frustration applicants experience is actually courtesy of the City of Vancouver, which has enacted a process that’s referred to, legally, as a “party foul.” If you want to open a new theme bar called “You Otter Know,” where patrons dress up like otters and feast on delicious locally sourced koi, you need to prove that the neighbourhood wants you there—so you’ll have to petition your neighbours (and pay for the privilege), and, even then, if the city rules that your business is too close to social or recreational facilities or that there are too many other bars nearby, your application can be turned down.
So yes, it’s hard to get a liquor license. But once you’ve got that sweet golden ticket in hand, you’re under the province’s domain—and from what I can tell from the crazy font choice in these emails (Verdana? You maniacs!), these guys would never want to stop a good party.
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