B.C. businesses can serve drinks to customers under new liquor law

Several Nelson businesses weigh in...

The BC government launched its new policy of allowing liquor licences to most types of businesses last week at Victory Barber & Brand in Victoria.

Care for a beer with your pedicure? A scotch with your shave? A cocktail while browsing listings in a real estate office?

The BC government has just changed its liquor laws to allow many more businesses to serve liquor to its customers, and it suggests that spas, salons, barber shops, art galleries, and bookstores might be interested.

The Star contacted a few of those businesses in Nelson and found a mixed response.

Jesse Lockhart, the owner-operator of Windsor Barber and Salon on Vernon Street, says he probably would not apply for a liquor licence because of the $2,200 cost of the application, and he thinks the initiative is a novelty that will wear off.

He admits, though, that there would be “something wonderful about having a single malt scotch after your hot towel shave, and getting the full experience of how things used to be in the Wild West.”

He says this has been possible in Europe for a long time, and he’s glad to see the government is “taking our training wheels off” when it comes to liquor laws.

Lockhart said another disincentive for him is that he’s situated next door to two bars.

“My business is right beside Finley’s and right beside the Adventure Hotel. I am also right beside AA, so for people recovering, they might like to come to a barbershop where they don’t see tons of alcohol around. If you want a drink you can go to a bar.”

Melisa Beyers, on the other hand, is on board in a big way and plans to apply on the effective date of January 23. She’s the owner of the Tea Garden Salon and Spa on Baker St.

“We have clients asking for wine but we can’t serve it because we don’t have a licence. We have a lot of bachelorette parties and wedding parties that come in, and they always want to drink champagne or mimosas beforehand, and we are not allowed to serve it.”

She said this applies not just to the salon but to the spa also.

“When they come in for spa parties they get pedicures, and if it is a group they will chit-chat and they would like a glass of wine.

“It is a good opportunity also because we have all these microbreweries opening up now. I would love to have something on tap.”

At least one of those breweries likes that idea.

“We are excited about the prospect of more establishments having the capability to sell our beer provided that the liquor laws are obeyed by all licensees,” says Nelson Brewing company owner Kate Walker.

The decision to allow businesses to serve liquor was one of 73 recommendations made by the province’s recent liquor policy review. The government launched this new rule last week at a barber shop in Victoria that plans to sell beer.

“The barber was saying this was something they were hoping to see years ago,” says Bill Anderson of BC’s small business ministry. “When he travels internationally, he sees that barber shops are able to offer their customers a cocktail so he is thrilled to be able to make that happen.”

The new law won’t allow liquor licences to business that operate out of vehicles or target children.

Anderson said that many other types of businesses might want to take part.

“Lets say you were a realtor. If you had a licence you could offer your clients a beverage while looking at listings.”

Lettie Bartels, the owner of Otter Books, won’t be applying for a licence.

“Absolutely not. It’s a bizarre idea. Maybe in the city, but I can’t think of any of our customers that would come in here wanting to have a drink. If we were open nights maybe, but in the middle of the day, why would anyone want a glass of wine with their purchase? Not to mention spilled wine on the books.”

Bartels said there would be no room in her store anyway, but she joked that the bar could replace the magazine rack because it might be more profitable.

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