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Whistler readies case for liquor law reform

Council gets first look at draft recommendations

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Whistler has a total licensed capacity for more than 40,000 people if every bar, restaurant, hotel ballroom and conference space is taken into account.

That's why the resort is so keen to have its voice heard at the provincial level, as the government works to revamp its outdated liquor laws this fall — any changes could have serious ramifications in the resort, as well as considerable benefits, if Whistler has its druthers.

"The food and beverage sector has made a huge investment in the Whistler resort community," said municipal planner Frank Savage.

"We feel that Whistler has a lot at stake in these policy changes and we would like our voice to be heard."

Early indications to council from the province, in the wake of last month's Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) meeting, is that the province would welcome Whistler's feedback.

The idea behind the liquor law review "is to identify balanced, common-sense solutions that improve consumer convenience and grow B.C.'s economy, while ensuring public health and safety."

Savage presented draft recommendations to council at Tuesday's Committee of the Whole meeting, giving council a chance to offer its feedback and suggestions.

Among the recommendations is that the province allow minors in liquor primary establishments past 8 p.m. in certain circumstances, particularly in the summer when the days are longer.

Another recommendation is that Whistler be allowed more control over granting temporary license changes in the resort — for example, if a bar/restaurant would like to stay open later, Whistler is proposing that it can manage those decisions without provincial oversight and an added layer of bureaucracy and time.

"We would like control of those temporary changes, " said Savage.

Other recommendations involve Special Occasion Licenses (SOL) for events.

"There are some gaps in the resort's ability to have the appropriate licensing for special events," said Savage.

Whistler is proposing that event organizers or businesses be allowed to apply for an SOL and make a profit from their event instead of the money going to charity, as is the current case.

"It inhibits events," said Savage.

Whistler would also like to see minors at certain SOL events.

Whistler set the precedent this summer at the GranFondo afternoon after-party at Whistler Olympic Plaza, which was licensed and allowed minors. There were no problems and participants and their supporters spoke highly of the party change over previous years.

At the same time, Whistler is recommending that the province maintain its current hours of service and allow the municipality the continued ability to limit those hours.

Whistler must consider, said Savage, the impacts of changes to the guest experience and while some could argue the pros for extending hours, the flip side is the impact of later closings on other resort guests.

Councillor Roger McCarthy encouraged Whistler's submission adding that Whistler has always led the way. He remembers the change that allowed booze to be sold on Sunday's about 40 years ago.

Whistler has until Oct. 31 to submit its case to the province.

Savage explained to council that it's a province-wide review; Whistler is just one municipality, albeit one that generates $1.1 million in tax revenues every day.

The recommendations will be back before council at the Oct. 15 meeting.

To add your two cents go to http://engage.gov.bc.ca/liquorpolicyreview/.

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