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Two years ago, Corinne Lea applied to serve liquor at her business, the Rio Theatre on East Broadway. She was successful, but the approval almost ruined her. Provincial laws at the time did not allow her to serve and also screen films, which put her in a quandary: sell drinks (good for revenue) or use the $100,000 projector she’d just had installed? She chose a third option.
And after six months of fighting, she got her way: the province changed the regulations. (Nine months after that, she received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for her troubles.) Rich Coleman, the minister responsible, indicated common sense was now in the house and that he wasn’t done with B.C.’s archaic, illogical liquor laws.
Coleman has moved on to other files, but freshly minted Attorney General Suzanne Anton is pressing ahead with a review, due at the end of this month, built with participation from medical, judicial, hospitality, and First Nations groups and – not part of the last review in 1999 – input from the public. The goal: to unblock, where feasible and safe, constraints on selling and consuming alcohol.
This openness – call it “glass-nost” – dovetails nicely with efforts by city councillors (both Vision Vancouver and NPA) to ease drinking restrictions. Of course we’re all mindful of alcohol’s potential for harm and abuse, but there’s a world of difference between, say, lowering the drinking age (which I oppose) and facilitating an evening of responsible libation (which I heartily encourage). Recent changes, such as corkage fees in restaurants and selectively extending patio hours, can only make us more Euro-sexy.
I’m especially heartened by the province’s decision to permit craft breweries to set up lounges where patrons can enjoy their creations – it’s because of this, along with support from the city, that the brewery districts on Main north of Broadway and at Hastings and Commercial are flourishing. I spent an evening with the 11 beermakers, and all of them applaud the boost. Between that and the ever-loosening limits on street food (a subject also featured in this, the Food Issue) – it feels like we’re actually growing up.