Vancouver restaurant liquor bylaw reconsidered

Vancouver city council is taking another shot at serving up a new liquor bylaw.

The move comes after a proposed measure—that would require licensed restaurants to sell as much food as alcohol and force some to roll back their closing times—didn’t go down well with industry members.

The liquor bylaw was supposed to be part of council’s agenda on November 3 but was pulled to allow staff to hold consultations with members of the restaurant industry.

“We thought it was important to revisit the bylaw to ensure that it is reflective of what the intent was, which was to better manage the liquor-primary [licence] versus the food-primary dynamic, and not unnecessarily or unintentionally catch some restaurants that are food-primaries operating legitimately but happen to sell very expensive alcohol,” councillor Raymond Louie told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

However, restaurateur James Iranzad claims that this step has left him and other industry members confused about council’s intentions.

Iranzad, an operating partner in Corkscrew Entertainment, which owns three West Side restaurants, pointed out that council could have simply removed the two controversial provisions in the bylaw.

One is for restaurants to have a 50-50 ratio in food and alcohol sales in any given eight-hour period. Another is uniform closing times of 1 a.m. on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends effective January 1, 2010, which would affect the 20 percent of licensed restaurants in the city that have later closing hours.

On October 24, the Straight reported on its Web site that Iranzad is trying to persuade other members of the restaurant industry to support a legal challenge of the bylaw.

“We’re interested in some legal action to block the bylaw, but at this point we’re just waiting to see what happens,” Iranzad said by phone on November 3 when asked about his next move. “Obviously, council is not finished. They’re going to put a new proposal together that, hopefully, addresses all the issues.”

In conversation, Louie indicated that the 50-50 rule may still be maintained, although with some adjustments.

“We’re looking [at], for instance, if an entire bottle of wine was purchased, [whether] we should separate that out from the equation as we do assessments, rather than tabulate it as part of the 50-percent alcohol,” the Vision Vancouver councillor explained.

With respect to liquor service hours, Louie said that council isn’t keen on allowing some restaurants with grandfathered licences to serve liquor later than the 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. closing times. “Equity across the board and giving everybody the same opportunity is important,” he said.

Yaletown is very much a restaurant and fashion-boutique district, according to Annette O’Shea, who noted that the trendy quarter has about 75 dining establishments.

O’Shea is the executive director of the Yaletown Business Improvement Association, and she suggests that council consider some basic fashion rules to guide its decision on the liquor bylaw.

“If a man wears a beautiful suit with a cheap tie, people remember the tie,” O’Shea told the Straight by phone. “You have a great meal with subpar beverages, they’ll remember that it didn’t go well. Any woman knows that with a great outfit, you’ve got to accessorize properly because this makes the outfit. You can’t walk in a dress and running shoes.”

O’Shea also said that since Vancouver takes pride in being a world-class city, it should live up to that status through its liquor laws.



Red frog

Nov 6, 2009 at 9:21pm

Who named Vancouver a world class city? a few boosters with delusions of grandeur .(Mercer report and the Economist are only rating cities from the point of view of expatriate businesmen temporarily transferred in another country. the high ranking of Vancouver only means that it is a cheaper city than Tokyo, New York and all the usual suspects)
Much bigger cities that are truly world class do have complicated laws about drinking and eating and the sky hasn't fallen on them!
In Paris, for example (as in all of France because, amazingly, most laws--and sale taxes-- are the same across the whole nation i.e Metropolitan+ overseas France) restaurants are open only a few hours for lunch and a few hours at dinner time. Most don't have a bar section and only serve drinks with food, at a table. Not too many drinks either as drinking and driving are punished by very stiff fines and the possible loss of the driving license or even the car .
Drinking places (cafes/ bars/bistros) are open all day long but can only serve basic food that is either cold or toasted/ grilled, not made in a full size kitchen with a chef and staff.
Some drinking places do have a separate restaurant section but need another licence just for that section.
It is against the law to order a full cooked meal if one is seating in the bar section or to order a cold sandwich if one is seating in the restaurant section.
A customer is not allowed to order a drink at the bar then carry it to a table inside or outside and sit down, as prices are different at the standing bar, in the main room and on the terrace outside.
This is a very basic overview.... there are more rules....

stale city

Nov 9, 2009 at 11:02am

Unfortunately now more than ever Vancouver has gone completely sterile...and this is known worldwide. It is not so much a question of restaurants, rather, it is impossible to find a casual neighbourhood place to enjoy late-night drinks...God forbid they allow live music. This is unheard of in any normal, large city on this continent or in Europe.

This latest news is astounding, absurd and embarrassing. Imagine someone visiting a restaurant and ordering a $60 B.C. wine to which the server would respond: "I'm sorry but you'll have to order 60$ worth of food if you want that". Or let's suppose I would like to celebrate something with my girlfriend and we ordered a $100 bottle of champagne - I suppose we'd have to gorge ourselves to near-death to enjoy that privilege. What Vancouver needs is less inspectors, regulations and bedtime police. Anyone in any world-class city would agree.


Dec 30, 2009 at 10:52am

I agree with Stale City.
These bylaws are more than anything a manifestation of the parochial closed mindedness of Vancouver city council. Vancouver is a great city, but much of that comes from it's natural setting and immigrant populations. Not from a stifled underfunded art scene, not from blaring crushing poverty and drug addiction that goes ignored, not from overt and covert racism and xenophobia, not from deeply embedded and influential corporate intrests, and most certainly not from draconian and overly conservative licensing laws in regards to liquor and live music.
It's a closed minded little tourist town with a great natural setting, good food, and skiing an hour away. Give it 20 years.