B.C. gets B grade for liquor policy amid pandemic

Restaurants Canada industry group says changes to wholesale pricing has dramatically improved province’s liquor landscape

Restaurants were allowed to purchase booze at wholesale prices on a temporary basis at the outset of the pandemic but the policy was made permanent in February 2021. The change helped boost B.C.'s liquor policy grade from a C to a B, according to a Restaurants Canada report card | Carlos Barquero/Moment/Getty Images

A new provincial policy allowing restaurants to buy booze at wholesale prices is bumping up B.C.’s grades when it comes to the liquor landscape for the restaurant and bar industry.

The latest report card from the Restaurants Canada industry group gives the West Coast a B grade when it comes to liquor policy – tied for second with Nova Scotia. 

Alberta’s B+ grade tops all provinces, while Saskatchewan trails at the back of the pack with a C-.

B.C. earned a C grade in the previous report card released in 2019.

“While Alberta still ranks highest for favourable liquor policy conditions, British Columbia has a fair shot at catching up if the province continues to cut red tape and reduce costs for licensed establishments,” Mark von Schellwitz, vice-president for Restaurants Canada’s Western division, said in a Wednesday statement.

Restaurants were allowed to purchase booze at wholesale prices on a temporary basis at the outset of the pandemic but the policy was made permanent in February 2021.

The change was one of 23 recommendations made by the government-appointed Business Technical Advisory Panel (Liquor Policy) back in 2018, when it examined ways in which the B.C. government should improve liquor regulation.

When the temporary policy was enacted in June 2020, BC Restaurant and Food Services Association CEO Ian Tostenson hailed it as "the most important and significant liquor policy change in a generation.”

Restaurants Canada is also calling on the province to improve liquor policy by reintroducing a liquor server wage, improving the process for ordering non-stocked liquor products and allowing for licensee-to-licensee liquor sales.

—With files from Glen Kostrom

torton@biv.com

@reporton