Fairness? Who Needs Fairness?: Vancouver’s New Liquor By-Laws
The City of Vancouver took aim at the heart of Vancouver’s restaurant industry two weeks ago with the introduction of by-law amendments that could have the effect of putting numerous restaurants out of business or forcing them to create unsustainable business models.
The tabled by-law amendments came amongst the more positive announcement that Vancouver was extending late-night licenses for some establishments that served primarily liquor. However, these amendments are seriously biased against the food primary establishments. Given how much Vancouverites love their food culture, this will come as a shock to many. Here are some of the amendments:
1. The 20% of food primary restaurants that have existing licenses to close later than 1am will be required by the City as of January 1st, 2010 to close at 1am on weekdays and 2am on weekends, effectively stripping these restaurants of a portion of their licenses, for which they undoubtedly paid a premium. No ‘grandfather’ clauses will qualify.
2. All restaurants, under the new by-laws, will be required to sell as much food as alcohol, and drinks can only be served with a meal. Read this last sentence very carefully because the out-dated 50/50 rule is back to put every single restaurant serving alcohol in contravention of their liquor license on a regular basis. The days of ordering a quality bottle of wine would be over, by law.
This last point affects every restaurant, be it casual dining, fine dining, corporate chain or otherwise, and furthermore Counci plans to eliminate any past loop holes by changing the previous 24 hour sampling to an 8 hour sampling.
3. The cost of City-issued business licenses will be increased to pay for the bureaucracy required to make these changes. Every food primary restaurant will also be subject to an annual $3.00 fee. The total amount of money this raises, somewhere in the neighbourhood of $450,000 annually, will be spent entirely on a new task force of inspectors whose sole mandate will be to enforce the 50/50 law. These ‘food police’ not only have the power they need to fine or suspend restaurants by way of their business licenses, but Council have also passed a measure without public consultation allowing them to raise the penalties to $15,000 for a contravention.
This is yet another example of government bureaucracies getting it all wrong. Why punish food primary restaurants with puritanical and ludicrous laws that lack both logic and fairness? Doesn’t this prove that bureaucrats are unable to make effective decisions when it comes to liquor licensing and distribution in the province? Will this by-law have the effect of increasing the already steady rate of restaurant closures in Vancouver given the poor economy? Hopefully this by-law amendment will never get the force of law and I hope that the restaurant industry and consumers can put enough pressure on the City to abandon this ludicrous law.
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