lagers on the patio

B.C. cuts red tape for patios

Press release

British Columbia has announced changes that will allow businesses with only outdoor patio seating to apply to offer liquor service, a move that will create new opportunities for small businesses and support increased consumer choice.

Previously, patios could only be licensed to serve liquor if they were attached to an indoor venue which held a liquor licence. Now, businesses with a suitable outdoor space can apply to operate a licensed patio even if the establishment has no other licensed areas. This change enables eligible seasonal outdoor restaurants, concessions and resorts throughout the Province to expand their businesses, supporting B.C.’s growing beer, wine and liquor industries.

“Small businesses are vitally important to our province’s economy and communities. That’s why we are making common sense changes like allowing outdoor restaurants and concessions the opportunity to apply for a liquor licence, to support increased consumer choice and the growth of B.C.’s small businesses,” said Coralee Oakes, Minister of Small Business, Red Tape Reduction and Responsible for the Liquor Distribution Branch.

For a patio to become licensed, it must comply with local zoning, adjoin a permanent structure that is affixed to a foundation, be plumbed and wired to meet licence requirements, and the perimeter must be properly defined and enclosed to easily control the flow of patrons entering and exiting the establishment.

Consultations were held between the Province and key stakeholders such as the joint B.C. – UBCM Liquor Policy Review Working Group to ensure that this policy change would both address industry needs and fit seamlessly with current municipal bylaws.

This change builds on previous liquor policy updates – such as removing the requirement for restaurants to have separately designated lounge spaces and introducing happy hours – aimed at reducing red tape and modernizing liquor laws to increase convenience for consumers, support growth of B.C. businesses, and continue protecting public health and safety.

“We would like to thank the Province for their continued progress on liquor policy reform. This is another excellent example of government and industry working together to strengthen our economy and support the small businesses that make up our restaurant and food service industry,” said Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association.

“Being in the heart of wine country and having access to B.C.’s incredible craft beer market, it is paramount that I am able to offer my patrons a variety of these choices with their dinner. Allowing my patio restaurant to be licensed makes it possible for me to provide the complete dining-under-the-stars experience that patrons are looking for,” added Gordon Fergusson, owner of Patio Burger and Ice Cream Co.

Quick facts:

  • Food primaries with only licensed outdoor patios must ensure that food is the primary focus at all times and offer a varied menu of appetizers and main courses made in a kitchen housed in the permanent structure.
  • Liquor primaries with only licensed outdoor patios must comply with the requirement to focus on beverage service, entertainment or hospitality while providing hot or cold snacks and non-alcoholic beverages, and must obtain local government input as part of the application process.
  • These establishments must also comply with local building and zoning requirements including noise and health bylaws.
  • The Province consults on liquor policy changes affecting local governments through the joint B.C. – UBCM Liquor Policy Review Working Group.
  • In 2013, the Liquor Policy Review put forward 72 recommendations to modernize B.C.’s liquor laws. 43 recommendations have been implemented with more to come this year.