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Changing liquor laws good for tourism

Whistler spearheads drive for further change at LMLGA conference



Local chef/caterer Grant Cousar, who along with his wife Hilarie, owns Whistler Cooks, said the new provincial changes to liquor laws could be a big boost to his business and others.

"It will profoundly affect us for the better," he said of legislation introduced May 1.

That legislation heeds the call from B.C. caterers, event planners and local governments like the Resort Municipality of Whistler to relax onerous liquor laws in the province."It's a very good first step," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden this week.

The legislation will remove hurdles for clients looking to have liquor service at catered events as well as allow dedicated catering businesses, like Whistler Cooks, and existing licensed establishments — restaurants, hotels and conference centres — to provide liquor at catered events held at offsite locations.

"If it's a customer-friendly program, this is something that could be happening every week," said Cousar of offsite events.

"It's a big thing for tourism."

He also calls the changes just "the tipping point", paving the way for more flexibility in the industry.

This week Whistler is presenting a resolution at the Lower Mainland Local Government Association (LMLGA), held at the Hilton Whistler Resort & Spa May 9-11, calling for more changes to the liquor laws. The LMLGA is a precursor to September's Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) meeting.

This year Whistler is asking for support from the LMLGA members that would allow caterers and events planners to be eligible for a Special Occasion License (SOL) and have certain SOL events, with local government and police support, allow people to walk freely with booze in areas where minors are present.

This issue was highlighted last year after an out-of-country corporation holding an event at Whistler Olympic Plaza was unable to serve booze to its clients.

The GrandFondo organizers also raised the issue after last year's road race, which ends in Whistler followed by a celebration at the plaza.

Whistler's resolution already has the backing of other corridor partners, all members of LMLGA, including Squamish, Pemberton and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.

When asked if she thinks the legislative changes could be in effect before the summer season, the mayor said: "It would be lovely if it would be. You never know."

BC mayors come together

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden will be one of more than 80 B.C. mayors gathering in Penticton next week for the first ever B.C. Mayors' Caucus.

It's a chance for all of B.C.'s mayors to gather and talk about some of the common issues facing municipalities in the province.

Nine mayors make up the steering committee including Surrey's Dianne Watts.

"B.C.'s municipalities need a new deal with the provincial and federal governments to provide the services our constituents expect," said Watts. "The current model is broken and as mayors we need to meet to discuss a collaborative approach to reversing the unsustainable trend that most municipalities are facing. Municipalities provide the vast majority of the services in areas such as infrastructure while being given only eight cents out of every tax dollar to do it. We know that taxpayers are at their limit, so it's time to discuss new partnerships with the other orders of government."

Among the goals of the caucus are: forging policy agreements to bring to the provincial and federal governments, exploring means of mutual support in the delivery of municipal services, looking for economic benefits through shared resources and pursuing joint economic development.

The caucus is structured after other successful models around North America and Europe. The meeting will take place from May 16-18.

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