Change to B.C. liquor policy to impact all-ages events at some venues
A change to provincial liquor policies set to take effect this month will further reduce what is already a shortage of local venues for all-ages concerts, according to a Vancouver non-profit group.
The Safe Amplification Site Society is raising concerns about a Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB) policy directive set to take effect on January 15, which will see some local establishments unable to host non-licensed shows for all ages.
“The concern is that there’s very few places for all-ages events as it is, and it doesn’t really seem like there’s any reason to take away one of the few options that do exist,” Ryan McCormick, a director with the society, which is focused on establishing a permanent all-ages space for music in the city, told the Straight by phone.
Under the policy change, liquor primary licensed establishments, such as nightclubs, bars and pubs, will no longer be permitted to “de-license” to host all-ages events of the same type the venue is licensed for. That means some music venues, like the Rickshaw Theatre, will no longer be allowed to apply to lock up their bar for a night in order to host an all-ages concert.
“Police, LCLB and communities have identified public safety and enforcement problems in LP [liquor primary] establishments which have been temporarily de-licensed for alternate use where the establishment is essentially carrying on the same business as they are licensed for (e.g. operating as a nightclub) but with all-ages present,” the November policy directive reads. “Minors attending these events have been found to be consuming liquor either prior to entering or outside the establishment during the course of the event”.
David Duprey, the owner of the Rickshaw, called the decision “ludicrous”.
“It is going to impact us financially…and it’s also just…messing with the kids,” he said in an interview. “Where are they going to go now? It could potentially drive a lot of these kids into underground venues where there is going to be no proper security and there are going to be no proper fire codes.”
McCormick echoed Duprey’s concern, calling the Rickshaw “one of very few legal, safe, all-ages venues that exists”.
“For it to be taken away for no real reason seems like an awful shame,” he said.
The B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines, which oversees the LCLB, did not make anyone available for an interview with the Straight. But information provided by the ministry indicated the branch has received “numerous complaints” from parents, high schools, and from police in B.C. related to all-ages events in liquor primary establishments, and “concerns about the appropriateness of permitting minors in nightclubs and bars”.
According to Duprey, the Rickshaw typically hosts about one to two all-ages shows a month. He noted the venue has yet to confirm whether it will be able to host all-ages shows during the day. The policy directive indicates that temporary de-licensing is not required for alternate use of a licensed establishment before the start of licensed hours.
Venues such as theatres, stadiums, and concert halls with liquor primary licences, including the Rio Theatre and the Vogue, will not be affected by the policy directive for all-ages events. The Commodore Ballroom, which hosts occasional all-ages events, will also not be affected as it operates on a grandfathered food-primary and liquor-primary dual licence.