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It's not exactly Happy Hour in Parksville Qualicum Beach

Liquor-law changes in B.C. are getting mixed reviews in Parksville Qualicum Beach.  - CANDACE WU PHOTO
Liquor-law changes in B.C. are getting mixed reviews in Parksville Qualicum Beach.
— image credit: CANDACE WU PHOTO

It's not happy hour for everybody in B.C.

Despite new liquor laws announced Friday that allow pubs and restaurants to offer "happy hour" — meaning they can legally alter the price of alcohol throughout the day — some local restaurant mangers are concerned the new legislation will hinder business instead of help.

Effective this week, the minimum price for draft beer or cider in B.C. is 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.

According to a government news release the regulations are intended to be "pocket-book friendly changes" helping the industry attract more business at slow points during the day.

However, Dan Brodeur, general manager of The Rod and Gun, called the new legislation "contradicting."

"I think it (the new liquor laws) are useless," he said. "They have no fluidity and no consistency — I just don't get them."

Brodeur said by offering happy hour restaurants and pubs will need to increase their labour cost while decreasing their profit margin.

He said the idea might make sense in more urban areas such as Vancouver.

Brodeur added: “for people to go pub-hopping at 3 p.m. in the afternoon in Parksville? I just don’t think it’s worth it for people to do that.”

Brodeur said the Rod and Gun did experiment with offering a happy hour deal shortly after the new legislation was announced — it only lasted three days and he said it “wasn’t worth it.”

“The clientele it did attract wasn’t what we’re going for,” he said. “From 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. who doesn’t work?”

Brodeur called it “disturbing” the way the provincial government deals with liquor laws.

“Nobody was asked what they thought about it (new legislation),” he said. “It was fine the way it was.”

Meanwhile, the province also enacted another liquor law allowing the sale of beer and wine at farmers’ markets.

The changes are supposed to “reflect the lifestyle of contemporary British Columbians,” according to Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton, who made the announcement on behalf of the provincial government Saturday from a farmers market in the lower mainland.

“Being able to pick up a bottle of local wine at your local farmers’ market is one of many balanced changes that support convenience and choice for consumers and economic growth for B.C.,” she said in a statement.

Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce executive director Kim Burden welcomed the changes with open arms.

“Anytime you can expand the market and make more product available to consumers it’s a good thing,” said Burden, adding that before the changes came into effect there were inquires about selling alcoholic beverages at the Craig Street market he had to turn down.

Burden explains manufacturers must apply directly to the farmers’ market where they wish to sell their product and then it is up to the market to decide which vintners, distillers and brewers they want at their venue. He added vendors must have their Serving It Right certification to ensure they do not sell to minors.

Also announced Saturday was another new liquor law allowing minors into liquor-primary establishments such as pubs and Legions to accommodate families who want to dine with their underage children. Establishments must submit an application to allow minors inside, minors must be accompanied by an adult and they may only stay until 10 p.m. However, liquor-primary establishments aren’t under formal order to change their premise to accommodate youth if they don’t want to.

According to a government-issued news release the changes open up “new dining options for rural communities where the number of family eateries may be limited.”

President of the Parksville Legion Dave Doskoch said the new laws put the legion in an “awkward situation.”

While Doskoch said the legion would be pleased to welcome children, the branch also has to follow strict gaming regulations (prohibiting minors from being in the establishment) which are in stark contrast to the new liquor regulations (encouraging minors to come to the establishment).

The Parksville Legion currently offers Keno, electronic poker and pull tabs.

“It’s difficult,” said Doskoch. “We applaud what they’re trying to do by making it more family-friendly but the restrictions in place certainly make it awkward for us and we aren’t sure how we can do this.”

Doskoch said individual Legions will have to deal with the new legislation as they see fit.

“It’s fine for us to want to have children on the premise,” he said. “But as it stands under current legislation we can’t have children in the lounge (of the Legion branch).”

Doskoch said the Legion is not making any big changes in terms of their liquor license yet.

“While the Legion wants to be a responsible community partner we don’t want to put the branch at risk.” he said. “We don’t anticipate anything until we have more clarity on the issue.”

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