Kids, happy hour coming to B.C. pubs

The B.C. government intends to allow children in pubs and restaurants to serve drinks without food

Pubs will allow children during part of the day

The B.C. government has poured another round of liquor law reform, with children to be allowed in pubs and restaurants allowed to serve drinks without food.

Premier Christy Clark announced the changes at a downtown Vancouver restaurant Tuesday, as the provincial cabinet works its way through a list of 70 recommendations from a recent public consultation on updating B.C. liquor laws.

As with earlier announcements for liquor reform, Tuesday’s event was short on details and long on populist appeal. Some time next year B.C. will see the changes, and will also join all other Canadian provinces in allowing pubs to offer discounted drinks for happy hour. Permitted times and a minimum drink price are still to be determined.

Children are to be allowed to accompany their parents into pubs up until an evening curfew time, also yet to be determined, but Clark said it will allow families to have lunch or dinner together at a pub. Royal Canadian Legion branches will have the same freedom to admit under-age customers.

Restaurants with “food primary” licences will still have to offer a full menu when liquor is available, Clark said, “but customers who don’t want to order food shouldn’t be forced to do so, and food primary businesses that want to fully transition away from food service after a certain hour, and operate for example as a night club, will be able to apply for a special licence to do so.”

NDP critic Shane Simpson said the changes effectively erase the distinction between a licensed restaurant and a pub, and are being announced for popular effect without any research to support them.

The province also intends to make its Serving it Right liquor training to all servers in licensed restaurants, as well as staff at B.C. Liquor Stores and rural agency and wine stores. Licensees, managers and sales and serving staff “should also be required to recertify,” according to a government news release.

Last week Clark and Richmond-Steveston MLA John Yap, who led the public consultation on liquor law reform, announced that regulations would be eased for winery tasting rooms. Farm markets will also be allowed to offer samples and sales of locally made beer, wine and spirits.