The Lower Mainland Local Government Association (LMLGA) has voted to support a Sea to Sky corridor-wide resolution to ease restrictions on liquor licensing for events in unlicensed venues.
Whistler Council (RMOW), the Village of Pemberton, Squamish Council and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) brought forward the motion at the LMLGA 2012 conference at the Hilton Whistler Resort on Thursday (May 10).
The first three points of the resolution were added to the B.C. government's legislation agenda on May 1:
• allow qualified commercial caterers to be eligible for a liquor license;
• allow qualified licensed establishments to be eligible for a catering endorsement to their liquor license;
• allow caterers, event planners and businesses involved with the planning and management of events to be eligible for a Special Occasion License.
The fourth point, however, is not before the legislature and caused some concerns among Lower Mainland government representatives.
It states: allow, for certain Special Occasion Licensed events with local government council/board and police support, for people to walk around freely with an alcoholic beverage in areas where minors are present.
A heated exchanged about the final clause ensued, with several representatives concerned with the idea of adults consuming alcohol in locations where children are present, as opposed to consuming alcohol in designated beer gardens.
Former MLA and current City of New Westminster councillor Chuck Puchmayr called it "the Serving it Wrong Resolution," saying he was "not comfortable with the serving of alcohol around young people" and would not vote in favour. He was echoed by Harrison Hot Springs councillor Allan Jackson, who said, "it would create a problem we don't want" at his resort town.
Among those who spoke favourably on the resolution was Burnaby Mayor Derrick Corrigan, who said it was a "rational and reasonable" response to serving public events, and noted that the Burnaby Blues Festival at Deer Lake Park had been negatively impacted, and even local RCMP had advised him that it was better to have public openly drinking on the grounds of the festival than in a beer garden.
Mayor Richard Stewart of Coquitlam told delegates they had lost a festival because of current liquor laws.
Their counterpart in Abbotsford, Mayor Bruce Banman, was more blunt.
"Come on, it's time we grew up," Banman told delegates. "It's time for Big Brother to get the heck off our backs."
The resolution will now be brought to September's Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) meeting in Victoria this fall.
In terms of the legislation before the B.C. legislature, it would 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.
"I'm very happy. It was nice to have the mayor of Burnaby come forward with an example of how it impacts an event, but I was concerned about the confusion some of the others felt," said SLRD chair Susie Gimse.
She said she had been pleasantly surprised by the support.
"Local governments will have a say about who gets a permit and when an event is treated more like a family event individuals are better behaved," she said.
Whistler's Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden echoed this.
"It's a step in the right direction. I'm grateful we received support from the LMLGA," she said.