Pub owner hopes liquor review targets taxes

Al Deacon of the Fox ‘N Hounds  regularly cheers on the Vancouver Canucks. He is now hoping a review of liquor regulations will give him another reason to cheer.  - KTW FILE PHOTO
Al Deacon of the Fox ‘N Hounds regularly cheers on the Vancouver Canucks. He is now hoping a review of liquor regulations will give him another reason to cheer. 
— image credit: KTW FILE PHOTO

Al Deacon’s family has owned the Fox N’ Hounds pub at Sahali Centre Mall for 30 years.

In that time, Deacon has seen plenty of changes that affect the business he grew up in and he’s anticipating more now that the provincial government is reviewing its liquor regulations.

Deacon is likely on the mail-out list of those who will be asked for input by John Yap, the parliamentary secretary for liquor-policy reform, before the process expands next month to allow anyone to comment.

“Everybody’s throwing their two bits into the wish pot,” Deacon said.

For him, one of the areas he hopes isn’t changed is allowing children into pubs.

“Kids should not be exposed to some of the things that happen there, the rednecks who sit beside you and the language starts.

“It’s not healthy.”

He’s hopeful something is done about the way alcohol is taxed to simplify it.

“One tax system would be great,’ Deacon said. “We had to pass on a draft [beer] tax a while ago. You can only absorb so much before you have to pass it along to the customer.”

Kamloops hospitality consultant Bryce Herman said the review is long overdue.

“We have archaic laws and there are ongoing issues,” he said.

One of the areas he hopes is addressed is allowing liquor retailers the ability to sell to liquor licencees, rather than requiring they go through government-run stores.

That might help the area’s wine industry in particular, Herman said, because it sells smaller quantities.

“That’s why you get a lot of the same wines being offered everywhere,” Herman said.

He’d like to see patio hours also looked at, noting they now have to shut down at 11 p.m.

And Herman might disagree with Deacon on allowing children into pubs, noting there’s an educational side to exposing children to responsible drinking rather than holding it as a special 19th-birthday rite to then go out “and get blotto.”

Among the changes being proposed is allowing farmers’ markets to sell wine, something the rancher who heads up the Kamloops market supports.

Tristan Cavers said he’s not sure how it might work, however, but could see it as a benefit for wineries in the Interior.

He said he’d want to ensure there are no problems with sales or sampling.

The people behind Harper’s Trail winery in east Kamloops see any changes a chance at making their industry stronger.

“The laws are so antiquated, so silly,” said Ed Collett.

His wife, Vicki, echoed his comments in an interview after the official weekend opening of their winery on Shuswap Road.

“It’s just about tax money,” she said. “You can by anything online from anywhere in the world, but we have all these laws.”

The Colletts are particularly irate at restrictions wineries face on selling their product in other Canadian jurisdictions.

They praised wine journalist Terry David Mulligan, who transported a case of B.C. wine from Penticton to Alberta, even though it was against the law.

In July 2012, B.C. changed its liquor-importation laws to allow people to bring back Canadian wine from elsewhere in the country, provided it was for personal consumption and not resale.

Yap’s report is to be prepared by Nov. 25, when it will go to Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton for consideration.

BYOB usually for special occasions

On July 19, 2012, provincial liquor laws were changed so people could bring their own bottles of wine to restaurants.

They would be charged a corkage fee — a cost to have restaurant staff open the bottle and pour the wine.

It’s not a common occurrence, said Connie Decaire, co-owner of The Brownstone Restaurant at 118 Victoria St.

“We actually had one table last night that brought in two bottles and one table that brought in one bottle,” she said.

“That’s unusual.”

David Tombs, owner of Terra Restaurant at 326 Victoria St., agreed.

“It’s happening occasionally,” he said, noting customers will bring in  a trophy bottle, perhaps an expensive bottle they have bought or had at home and know would cost even more with restaurant markup rates.

His restaurant charges a $15 corkage fee for B.C. wines and $20 for all others because “we’re a B.C. promoter.”

Decaire charges $15 regardless of wine’s origin.

Prestons Restaurant and Lounge at the Coast Kamloops Hotel finds the same situation.

“Maybe twice a month, usually on special occasions,” said restaurant manager Nicole St. Godard.

The corkage fee there is also $15.

Liquor laws require restaurant staff with the appropriate serving certification must open and pour the wine “so you can’t open it and be passing it around the table yourself,” Decaire said.

“It makes the most sense if you have an expensive bottle at home.”

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