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The Brewing Storm

Hospitality industry professional examines the impacts of liquor laws on businesses


Long-time hospitality professional David Branigan, says a storm is brewing in the industry as it grapples with the new drunk driving laws (BAC down to .05, Immediate Roadside Prohibitions), a global recession and the HST.

What we are witnessing - the complete decoupling of alcohol and automobiles -while needed, is impacting restaurants and pubs around the province, he says.

Added to that is the impact of HST and a travelling public that books at the last minute, stays close to home and spends less. As the hospitality business struggles to keep afloat and relevant in these challenging timse Branigan investigates these issues.


The B.C. Government is the first to admit the implementation of two critical pieces of legislation were bungled. The first was the sneak-attack HST, which came on the heels of an election campaign where it said it wasn't being contemplated in the BC Liberal platform. The second was the new impaired driving laws - commonly known as BAC .05 - which in one stroke have taken over a billion dollars in sales across the province, creating what the Alliance of B.C. Beverage Alcohol Licenses (ABLE BC) calls "de facto prohibition."

The impaired law came in with no industry consultation and a lack of foresight of how it would play out on Main Street. It has brought pubs and restaurants to their knees.

It's a hot-button issue. No one wants impaired drivers on the road. It seems that you can't go a week without another headline about a horrific death on the roads due to a drunk driver.

Discussing how the new impaired driving laws, which are saving lives, are impacting business is unpalatable to many.


Middelaer's Law

The final catalyst to change the impaired laws came three years ago as B.C. took a collective gasp of horror as three-year-old Alexa Middelaer was cut down by a drunk driver. She was feeding some horses on the side of the road with her aunt when they were struck by a vehicle.

While tougher drunk driving laws had long been discussed, that event galvanized lawmakers and the result was Middelaer's Law.

The driver Carol Berner later confessed to undercover police she'd had three glasses of wine. She blew .04 and .06 milligrams/per cent blood alcohol content hours later at the police station.

At the time, government trumpeted the laws, the most aggressive in the nation, as a means of affecting a behavioural change across society. Then Solicitor General Mike DeJong was aiming to reduce the number of drunk driving fatalities by a third in the next three years.

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