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Whistler Blackcomb could soon serve liquor at outdoor mountain events

Temporary use license would allow for up to 52 outdoor events on Whistler and Blackcomb


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If Whistler Blackcomb (WB) gets its way, guests could soon be able to crack a beer while taking in some of that fresh mountain air.

The ski resort has applied to the B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch for Temporary Use Area (TUA) Endorsement Licenses that, if approved, would allow for liquor to be served at up to 52 outdoor events per year on both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains.

"I think it's levelled the playing field for us in relation to our American and European competition, and that's the key aspect for Whistler," said Whistler Blackcomb's VP of food and beverage, Paul Street.

Under B.C.'s previous liquor laws, Whistler Blackcomb and other ski resorts had to apply for a license for each outdoor event planned on the mountain, a process that could take up to eight weeks to get approved. Licenses were also limited to two per month.

"Now, with this process for the TUA, it's similar to a catering endorsement license in that we can apply for a temporary use license and have it turned around in 24 hours," Street said.

The shorter turn-around time gives Whistler Blackcomb greater flexibility in scheduling on-mountain functions, and means resort guests could soon be able to enjoy a glass of champagne at a wedding on the peak or a couple brews at a beer garden. The resort envisions these licenses being used for both food- and liquor-primary events.

Events with over 500 guests would still need to be approved by the RMOW, RCMP and fire department.

"It gives us the opportunity to have, for example, barbecues with beer on nice days in the summer and winter, and to basically add some animation and have some additional service for our guests," noted Street.

Whistler Blackcomb now waits for public feedback on its TUA license application. If approved, Street said the mountain could begin serving liquor at events held in one of 12 designated outdoor locations within a few weeks.

The change is part of the province's recent overhaul of B.C.'s oft-criticized liquor policy, which was based on extensive consultation with the hospitality and tourism industries. Whistler was a key player at the table, and had lobbied Victoria for years to update its legislation to more closely align with other Canadian provinces. Several changes Whistler pushed for are either in the works or have come to fruition, including the sale of liquor at farmers' markets, and whole-site licensing for major public events and festivals.

B.C.'s $1-billion liquor industry is one of the leading tourism boons in the province with more than 800,000 annual visitors spending money related to the wine industry.



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