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B.C.'s Looniest Liquor Laws

Raise a glass to our lush province's most outlandish legal hangovers



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"We're looking at some deeply antiquated policies," Vancouver Councillor Heather Deal says of B.C.'s Liquor Control and Licensing Act. "It's not about being permissive to the point of encouraging abuse, but bringing legislation into the modern age."

2. No wine with that movie!

For starters, movie theatres cannot sell liquor in British Columbia.

It's an old law, thrown into question by an equally ancient theatre: the 1938 Rio in East Vancouver. Functioning as a single-screen multimedia venue for many years, the theatre has been locked in liquor licence limbo for nearly a year.

The City of Vancouver has endorsed the Rio's application for a full-time licence, but the provincial government has ruled the heritage space would have to stop functioning as a theatre.

"That's what the province has told us. They've made it very clear," owner and general manager Corinne Lea says. "With this application process we must now be a live venue exclusively." It's a strange violation, considering the Rio has regularly served drinks at live events using temporary licences.

That news came as quite a shock back in September — eight months into Lea's application — after she'd spent $100,000 on a 3-D projector. "We're fully equipped for film. Our fans like to see movies here. It's a big blow to our business."

Liquor Control and Licensing Branch general manager Karen Ayers says the law is in place to prevent minors from accessing alcohol. Kids like movies, she says, and aren't easily monitored in a dark theatre.

"I have seen letters from individual people wanting government to change regulations to permit the Rio Theatre to serve liquor and screen films." Ayers confirms. "Our response so far has been that the regulations don't permit what they're looking for."

An online petition calling for the law to be repealed has collected a couple thousand signatures since October. With the City and public in full support, the Rio must wait for legislation to catch up.

3. No cross-border boozin'!

Alberta can be forgiven for its lack of wine country. But as visitors, British Columbians might be tempted to bring over a bottle or two from Canada's oldest wine region.

However, thanks to the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act, doing so is a federal offense. No liquor is allowed to cross provincial borders without express consent from each province's liquor board.

"It's not right that someone from the United States has an easier time shipping wine home," says Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Dan Albas, who has spearheaded a private members' bill to amend the 83-year-old law. Albas says the legislation hurts his constituents' family-run wineries and the region's tourism industry.

"I don't think they normally bother people like you and me," Campbell says of the limits on cross-provincial imbibing. Liquor boards in Alberta and Ontario have both issued statements that give allowance for personal use. "But it certainly doesn't encourage inter-provincial trade."