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New liquor laws now in effect

Salons, barbershops, art galleries can now apply for licences

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Recent changes to B.C.'s liquor laws will open new doors for Whistler businesses, though none are jumping at the opportunity just yet.

Among the changes that came into effect Jan. 23: all types of businesses — like barbershops, salons, bookstores and art galleries — are now able to apply for a liquor license; businesses can apply for a Special Event Licence (formerly a Special Occasion Licence) to reduce red tape in organizing events and festivals; and hotels with a bar can offer guests a complimentary drink upon check-in, and allow guests to carry drinks from licensed areas up to their rooms.

So far the municipality hasn't received any applications from businesses wanting a liquor licence under the new rules, said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, but the prospect is intriguing.

"All of these changes will have the net result of increasing the number of licenced seats in this town and I think we already have something like 40,000, so it kind of begs the question, when is enough enough?" the mayor said.

A presentation detailing the changes and their effect on Whistler will come to council at an upcoming meeting.

The picture will be clearer after that presentation, but one potential concern Wilhelm-Morden said she can see with the new rules is around dual licensing, which will allow establishments to change from a food primary licence to a liquor primary licence after a certain hour.

"We don't want to lose food primary seats, and especially food primary seats where children can go," she said.

"We'll just have to see how that all works out."

Pique reached out to a handful of local businesses to see if any are planning on taking advantage of the new rules, none of which currently have plans to apply for a liquor licence.

"There have been a few preliminary conversations but we are still in the reviewing stage. No decision has been made yet," said Brianna Beacom, operations manager for the Audain Art Museum.

"I am pleased to see the policies updated, 'cutting the red tape' and reducing the number of hoops to jump through — I think all of B.C. has been waiting for this."

Neither The Loft Salon, the Whistler Barber Shop, Farfalla Hair and Esthetics or Elevation Hair Studio have plans to apply at this time, either.

"It is something that we may consider in the future, however we have some in-salon projects coming up we would rather spend our energy on to enhance the services we currently provide," said Rhiannon Rogers, salon manager at Elevation.

In an emailed statement, Melissa Pace, acting CEO of the Whistler Chamber, said the organization welcomes the updated liquor laws.

"It's encouraging to see the continued progress to reduce red tape for businesses while pushing forward to modernize B.C. liquor laws," Pace said.

"These changes, which increase flexibility and reflect common sense, will undoubtedly provide new opportunities for our thriving business community. In addition, this will enhance the visitor experience and service excellence which Whistler is so well recognized for around the world."

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