Alcoholic beverages on B.C. Ferries? Not quite yet

B.C. Ferries has had to delay its plan to serve alcohol on three vessels sailing between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen.

“We originally planned for a June launch, pending approval of the liquor licence application. We are still waiting for the licence,” said Astrid Braunschmidt, B.C. Ferries’ manager of communications. “When we have it, we can confirm a launch date.”

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B.C. Ferries plans to sell alcohol to Pacific Buffet diners riding on Spirit of Vancouver Island, Spirit of British Columbia and Coastal Celebration.

Braunschmidt said B.C. Ferries has had no indication the application is being held up, and suggested it is just going through the usual process.

“We don’t have an indication of when that will be. As soon as we have the licence, we’ll be able to identify and confirm a launch date and share additional information,” she said.

The head of the B.C. Ferry and Marine Worker’s Union, which represents B.C. Ferries workers, said he understands the corporation’s application to serve alcohol has been held up to allow for closer scrutiny.

Graeme Johnston, provincial president for the union, said given the magnitude of the decision, the delay is a good thing.

“The Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch believes this is a matter of broad public interest. We think they’re being rightfully cautious,” he said. “Getting this right is positive. B.C. Ferries is asking for a licence to serve alcohol on its marine highways. This matter deserves careful consideration.”

A spokesman for the Attorney General Ministry said they cannot comment on details related to individual applications as they are a private business matter between the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch and the applicant.

Johnston said the union has concerns about serving alcohol on ferries.

“The buffet crew is already understaffed. The crew have significant concern about worker and public safety regarding the responsibility of serving alcohol to passengers, particularly motorists,” he said. “If the licence is granted, our members want to make sure this important issue is given the respect and resources it deserves.”

Johnston said if B.C. Ferries is goes ahead with serving alcohol, he wants to ensure employees have the resources needed to ensure passenger and public safety.

“Specifically, there should be at least one additional crew member dedicated to serving it right,” he said.

B.C. Ferries has released little information about its alcohol plan, other than an internal memo saying it would be restricted to the Pacific Buffet and customers 19 years of age and older would have the option of buying two drinks with a meal.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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