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SLRD making push for new liquor licensing

Change that would allow organizers to make a profit could speed return of Pemberton Festival



The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District is pushing for new liquor licensing laws that could allow Live Nation to profit from sales of alcohol at a future Pemberton Festival.

SLRD Administrator Paul Edgington told Pique in an interview on Monday (July 5) that the regional district is asking a Union of British Columbia Municipalities task force to look into Section 7(2) of the Liquor Control and Licensing Act with the possibility of tweaking it to allow events to profit from liquor sales.

At present, the section reads as follows: "A licence must not be issued for the prime purpose of making a profit, unless the general manager is satisfied that the purpose of the special occasion is to raise funds for a genuine charitable purpose."

"It becomes difficult for a for-profit enterprise to make a profit from liquor sales under a Special Occasion Licence," Edgington said. "In my dialogue with liquor licensing officials, how they get around that for festivals and concerts held at a place like GM Place or BC Place is that the entire premise is licensed year round.

"There really isn't a provision for a profit-making license for a one-, two-, three-, four-day event."

The UBCM will look at the recommendations that the SLRD gives them and then choose whether to approach the province to request the changes. Discretion to change the laws ultimately lies with the provincial government, which may make some changes through Bill 20, a planned Miscellaneous Statues Amendment Act.

If they're approved, the changes could lower a very big hurdle for a future Pemberton Festival.

Concert promoter Live Nation is working to hold the festival on a piece of agriculture land in Area C of the regional district, about four kilometres from the Village of Pemberton. The only Pemberton Festival was in 2008 and brought an estimated 40,000 spectators to Pemberton to see bands such as Coldplay, Tom Petty, Nine Inch Nails and Jay-Z.

The event hasn't been held since as the company looks to make it more "financially feasible." Live Nation has also been looking at resolving traffic issues and policing costs required to accommodate such a major event.

Edgington went on to say that he's heard Live Nation "needs to make a profit overall" on the event and that liquor sales could help make that happen.

"It would make sense to me that this would be one element of the overall profitability," he said.

The 2008 Pemberton Festival saw the Pemberton and District Chamber of Commerce obtain a Special Occasion Licence on Live Nation's behalf. It allowed alcohol service in beer gardens throughout the site.

What they're looking for this time around is a European-style licence that's also similar to the permits used at events in the Province of Ontario such as the Ottawa Blues Festival. At that event, spectators can drink alcohol, much as they can in stadium venues.

In addition to the SLRD, festival organizers are in talks with the Liquor Control Board about a future event and they're said to be "good communications."