Pubs drink up new liquor rules

Grant and Erinn Bryan of O’Hare’s, which hopes to soon welcome minors under new liquor rules.  - Torrie Watters file photo
Grant and Erinn Bryan of O’Hare’s, which hopes to soon welcome minors under new liquor rules.
— image credit: Torrie Watters file photo

UPDATE: O’Hare’s GastroPub has become Richmond's first pub that welcomes minors. O'Hares received its license Friday (June 27) morning.

ORIGINAL STORY: The operator of a Richmond pub hopes his establishment will be among the first to welcome minors under liquor policy changes made official Monday.

Liquor-primary establishments—such as pubs and legions—are now free to apply to B.C.’s liquor regulator to accommodate patrons under age 19. The change would allow families to enjoy a meal together at a place they never could before.

Grant Bryan of O’Hare’s GastroPub, at 5031 Steveston Hwy., has already applied.

“We’re hoping to be one of the first,” said Bryan. “As a neighbourhood pub it’s a really good fit for us and our Steveston community to be able to allow families in for dinner.”

To be eligible, the establishment must serve food, said Bryan. Minors must also be accompanied by an adult, and stay no later than 10 p.m.

Bryan said he was raised in the United Kingdom, where a pub is a cornerstone of a community.

“I grew up going to the local pub for Sunday lunch. It didn’t promote drinking, it promoting spending time with your family. Dad had a beer, mom had a glass of wine, we had juice and we had a great time.”

The B.C. government is planning a complete re-write of the Liquor Control and Licensing Act. That’s scheduled for spring 2015. In the meantime, government is phasing in changes. Richmond-Steveston MLA John Yap is in charge of the liquor policy reform file.

“Our government has opened the door to family-friendly changes, with updated liquor policies that align with feedback I received from legions, the hospitality industry and British Columbians during the liquor policy review,” said Yap in a news release this week. “We are leaving it up to the local associations and businesses to decide whether to pursue these changes.”

Seventeen of the review’s 73 recommendations have been implemented so far.

Other changes announced include allowing local liquor manufacturers to offer samples of their products at farmers markets, and pricing flexibility—permitting pubs to offer happy hours, provided the lower-priced drinks adhere to new minimums.

Minimum prices are based on alcohol content: draft beer and cider is now 25 cents per fluid ounce, which puts a 12-ounce sleeve at $3, a 20-ounce pint at $5 and a 60-ounce jug at $15. Using a one-ounce minimum, the lowest permitted price for any alcoholic drink is $3.

At O’Hares, the new minimum pricing won’t have much impact—given that its cheapest beer is already at the minimum mark—but it will put all operators on a level playing field, said Bryan.

In East Richmond, at Kingswood Pub on No. 5 Road, owner Randy Craig has already introduced three daily happy hours.

“Sales are going to go down because you’re selling cheaper booze, but people are having more fun,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll keep three…but right now it’s kind of fun for all the people.”

Some B.C. pub owners, however, have met the new regulations with protest, saying they had already offered drink specials below the government’s new minimum prices.

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