Mojito with your manicure? B.C. now lets businesses apply for liquor licences

Any business can now apply for a liquor licence, unless it caters primarily to minors

From book stores to barber shops, businesses across British Columbia can now ask the provincial government for permission to serve liquor.

Under new legislation that came into effect Monday, any business can now apply for a liquor licence, unless it caters primarily to minors and or is based inside a motor vehicle.

A barber shop in Vancouver's trendy Gastown neighbourhood is among businesses planning to capitalize on the new rules.

'It's a nice service that we would be able to offer our clients as a compliment to either a haircut or a shave,'' said Jeff Campeau, a barber at Victory.

The shop's management has put in an application for a liquor licence and is awaiting approval, both from the province and the city.

"We've had a number of clients who are excited about the possibility of having a beer or a whisky or a glass of wine with their service. The general population of our clientele has been quite excited for it,'' Campeau said.

They haven't discussed the beverages might appear on the menu, he added, but said they'll likely keep the options simple so the shop doesn't become more bar than barber.

John Yap, B.C.'s parliamentary secretary for liquor review policy, said the new rules modernize previous laws.

"That's a fundamental departure from what was the case with the antiquated liquor laws, where only food and beverage and hospitality businesses could apply for a liquor licence,'' he said.

Like the previous laws, establishments serving drinks will have to be certified through the province's Serving It Right program, which teaches people their legal responsibilities when serving alcohol.

Municipalities will also have to approve of businesses that want to serve liquor. The City of Vancouver says in a statement that it is currently reviewing all the feedback heard during a recent liquor-policy review and staff are preparing policy advice for city council to consider in March.

The changes come after a years-long review of the province's liquor laws and a report that included 73 recommendations for new legislation.

"During the policy review, we heard from thousands of British Columbians who expressed a desire for a more common sense approach to our liquor laws,'' Yap said.

Other new regulations allow people at golf courses to take their drinks from one service area to another, and hotels to give guests a complimentary check-in drink.

The changes create flexibility for consumers and allow businesses to explore new revenue streams, Yap said.

B.C. isn't the first province to relax its liquor laws. Rules allowing non-food and alcohol businesses to serve alcohol in Ontario changed in 2011.

Jeff Armstrong opened a spa called Her Majesty's Pleasure in downtown Toronto in 2014, where guests can sip on anything from champagne to a cocktail while being pampered.

"I think in general, the beauty industry lacks unique experiences,'' he said. "And when you look at things like airport lounges and hotel lobbies and restaurants, all the great places that are fun to go out, there's always some sort of bar or wine and spirit component that adds socialization.''

The spa's clients include people from "all walks of life,'' including both individuals and groups, Armstrong said.

"People love to treat themselves and they love to treat their friends,'' he added.

While serving mojitos with manicures is currently a unique business model, Armstrong said he expects the trend to continue, but not quickly, because the process to get a licence is long and rigorous.

Still, Armstrong said he plans to take advantage of B.C.'s new rules by opening a location in Vancouver soon.

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