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Whistler-Blackcomb, Sun Peaks welcome new liquor laws

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Minors allowed in bars owned by ski operator, until 7 p.m.

Minors are now allowed in Whistler-Blackcomb bars after a change in provincial liquor regulations eased the laws for ski operators across the province.

"It’s great," said Paul Street, general manager of bars at Whistler-Blackcomb.

"Our customers are super happy. At the beginning of the ski season when we weren’t able to do it we were turning away a ton of people from all three of our facilities through the course of the day."

The new provincial regulations, which were endorsed by the municipality at the beginning of December, allow minors in bars owned by ski operators before 7 p.m. They must be accompanied by an adult.

The change was based on a successful pilot program last season to allow guests with kids or young adults into bars owned by ski operators for apres ski. In resorts around the world minors are often allowed into bars with adults and international guests at Whistler-Blackcomb often questioned the strict liquor laws in the province.

Street said the three Whistler-Blackcomb bars, Merlin’s, Dusty’s and the GLC, have been turning away people for years. Many of those guests are people who just want to come into the bars for a beer or hot chocolate or a plate of nachos.

"It was very common for us to turn people away from all three of our bars," he added.

"We’re right at the base of the ski hill so they ski down and they see our facilities and they come in looking for lunch and they can’t get it. That’s a similar experience for ski resorts across the province."

Street added that the Whistler-Blackcomb bars, though classified as liquor primary for licensing purposes, also sell a large portion of food for bars with that classification. According to sales, 65 per cent of transactions are liquor and the remaining 35 per cent are food. As such, the bars don’t act the same as other liquor primary establishments.

"(The new regulation is) a way to allow for dual-purpose use of our facilities and it’s been very successful," said Street.

The sentiment is echoed at Sun Peaks. At that resort minors are allowed in the ski operator’s three bars.

"Our liquor laws have been in the dark ages for so long it’s about time we started to wake up and smell the coffee," said Jeff Putnam, executive director of Tourism Sun Peaks.

"We think it’s a real positive thing. We’ve been very supportive of it and it’s about time the industry started to get on pace with our American and European counterparts."

Putnam added that food and beverage revenues have been eroded over the years with the influx of resort accommodations that have kitchen units. The new regulations will entice families into bars rather than back to their condos.

Under the new regulations minors are allowed into bars owned by ski operators as long as they are accompanied by an adult parent or a guardian.

Street explained that this means the adult must be in a position of care.

"So if a 20-year-old came in with his 18-year-old sister he wouldn’t be able to come in. It needs to be a dependent relationship," he said.

The minors must leave the bars no later than 7 p.m.

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