Opinion Column

Antiquated liquor laws need updating


For the fist time in living memory, I find myself in agreement with a Vision Vancouver councillor.

We agree Rio Theatre's new liquor licence is really a lose for them, in spite of statements from the Liquor board's General Manager Karen Ayers, calling it a win.

The liquor licence essentially puts them out of the movie business.

This prompted Vision Coun. Heather Deal to step up, and say B.C.'s liquor laws are antiquated and need changing - and she's right.

The trials and tribulations faced by Rio owner Corrinne Lea as she tries to battle the bureaucratic inertia of the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch are merely the latest volley in the war against the legislative stupidity that is B.C. liquor laws.

Why can I get a glass of wine in the lobby bar at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in March when I go to see Rossini's fabulous operatic comedy The Barber of Seville, but nothing stronger than water or pop when catching a double feature at the 74-year-old Rio?

The answer, of course, is that a movie theatre is somehow different than a live theatre in the eyes of the bureaucrats. Lea understood that as she went through the process, calculating that she would serve alcohol for live events but not for screened events. Ayers told her in no uncertain terms that if she has a liquor licence she is out of the movie business.

Why government insists on enforcing a "state of adolescence" in our liquor laws was first observed by British reporter Noel Monks in 1949, when he was refused a pint of beer at the Hotel Vancouver because serving someone standing upright was outlawed. Now, 63 years later, the government is still at it.

B.C.'s consumption taxes are already insane. Here, we pay a 123% tax markup on every bottle of wine and a staggering 170% on bottles of spirits. In neighbouring Alberta, which Ralph Klein dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th Century just in time for the 21st Century, the government tax on a bottle of wine or spirits is the same - $8.

This means that bottle of single malt whiskey you enjoy will be $40 or more cheaper in Costco in Calgary than in a B.C. liquor store. But hang on, you can't go to Alberta and buy a case of wine and bring it back.

That, too, is illegal. And, Costco is not allowed to sell wine and spirits here lest it result in the end of civilization as we know it.

Coun. Deal is right. Our liquor laws are antiquated and desperately need to be reviewed.