Controversial changes to B.C. liquor laws affecting all-ages events in licensed bars will have little impact on Victoria venues, club managers say.
The province’s move to “alternate use” policies for bars and nightclubs that mainly sell liquor will come into effect Tuesday.
Until now, licensed bars could hold non-liquor events for all ages, such as grad ceremonies or teen concerts, during off hours if they applied to be “de-licensed” for a period of time.
Under the changes, venues with liquor-primary licences can still host all-ages events — but only if they do not reflect their everyday business, according to the Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Responsible for Housing, which also handles the B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch.
That means licensed music venues won’t be able to hold music-related all-ages events.
The province is also capping the number of times an establishment can apply to de-license at between four and six per year.
That will have a big impact in larger cities, where numerous all-ages events are held, but less of one in Victoria.
Only about 20 of the province’s 2,328 licensed liquor-primary establishments applied last year to de-license to host all-ages events, though some did several times.
“None of these were Victoria nightclubs,” said the ministry in an email.
One of the few Victoria nightclubs potentially affected by the decision, the Strathcona Hotel’s Club 9one9, is unfazed by the news.
All-ages events in the club are rare — the last one was in May 2011 — largely because of the amount of work involved, said promotions manager Kris Barnes.
But Victoria musician Steve Migliarese says losing even one all-ages show is one too many.
“Any law that comes into effect is a slippery slope,” he said. “It’s going to affect Vancouver, but in turn that affects bands from here that go over there and play.”
The biggest loss will be felt by young music fans, he said. “This really puts a dent in the all-ages scene, in my opinion.”
Under the previous law, venues could apply to change their terms of operation on a single-use basis. Venues were permitted to host a wide range of events, though concerts were most common.
Due to an increase in time-consuming de-licensing applications, which rose from 511 in 2007 to 740 in 2012, the ministry said it was forced to rethink its position.
“The change was required to address growing public safety concerns from police, local governments, teachers and parents about teenagers consuming alcohol before, after and during all-ages events hosted at de-licensed bars and nightclubs,” the ministry said.
— With a file from Katherine Dedyna
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