Happy hour has arrived in B.C., but some drink prices will actually rise with the government’s new liquor regulations.
The provincial government will allow discounted alcoholic beverages designed to attract patrons into drinking establishments. At the same time, Victoria imposed minimum drink prices that will force some outlets to raise their prices.
General manager Deanne Hayter said the Billy Miner Pub used to offer a $4.25 pint of Trailblazer Pilsner on Mondays – the most affordable beer on the menu. Under new regulations, the minimum price for a 20-ounce pint is $5.
“That’s still pretty reasonable, considering it’s a full 20 ounces,” said Hayter.
The minimum price for beer and cider is 25 cents per fluid ounce (28ml). That’s $3 for a 12-ounce sleeve – a price that can already be found at the Haney Public House – while a 20-ounce pint is $5 and a 60-ounce jug is $15. Wine will go for a minimum of 60 cents per ounce, and spirits $2.
“There’s not going to be a lot of savings at that rate,” said Andrew Wong, GM of the Black Sheep Pub.
He said the pub has Draft Day Wednesdays, offering some brands at lower rates than the new minimums.
The lowest allowable price for any alcoholic beverage will be $3 for a single ounce cocktail, five ounce glass of wine or 12 ounces of beer or cider. Two-for-one specials are still prohibited.
These minimums will not apply to catered events, or special occasion licences.
“Whether it’s meeting after work for a discounted pint, for example, or enjoying a happy hour cocktail on a Saturday afternoon, these changes create new social opportunities for British Columbians. To balance health and safety, we have put into effect price floors that align with the views expressed by health advocates during our liquor consultations and will help to encourage responsible consumption,” said John Yap, the parliamentary secretary for liquor policy reform.
Wong said the Black Sheep will likely try happy hour specials.
“They do it a lot in the United States, and it’s really popular there,” he noted. “We’ll be looking at them, for sure.”
Not everyone in the industry is going to immediately schedule a happy hour into their business day.
Hayter said the Billy Miner has found its customers prefer day-long drink specials, on selected craft beers and other drinks, so those deals will continue.
Hayter said the public should consider the liquor law changes in their entirety, and they are generally a good thing, she said.
For example, as a consumer, she can now take her children into one of her favourite pubs in Whistler, thanks to changes in laws that used to ban kids. Children must be in the company of an adult, and can stay no later than 10 p.m.
“A family can absolutely come in here, and the bartender can serve the kids juice,” she said.
At the same time, if restaurant patrons wish to order drinks only, they are no longer obligated to offer food as well. But they must offer a full menu.
On Saturday the government also announced that farmers markets will be allowed to offer samples of beer, wine and spirits, and offer it for sale.
The provincial government conducted its liquor policy review with consultation from industry groups and health advocates.
“There has been a positive reaction, if you look at it in a full-spectrum way,” said Hayter.