Dear Mr Coleman
As a person who has been advocating long and hard for the review and reform of BC liquor laws and the way alcohol is controlled and distributed in this province, I would like to thank you for finally taking notice of the loud and persistent calls for changes.
For a while there I was wondering if the government's strategy was to allow us liquor-law naysayers to scream ourselves hoarse and fall silent due to sheer exhaustion, but your quick call to action after being put in charge of both the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB) and Liquor Distribution Board (LDB) has me thinking there is a glimmer of hope that BC can begin to treat those who can legally consume and those who distribute and sell alcohol in BC like the adults that they are.
For as long as I have been aware of alcohol and liquor laws, I have been aware of BC residents and alcohol-related businesses crying out for changes to our out-dated and over-bearing liquor laws and system of alcohol distribution. The way in which these laws restrict the freedoms of those who choose to partake in downing a few adult beverages here in BC and the seemingly arbitrary way the LCLB enforce these laws, may have made perfect sense in post-Prohibition British Columbia, circa 1925, but sir it is now 2012 and if those who believe the Mayan calendar may indeed be predicting the Apocalypse on Dec 21, of this year, would like you to hurry along with these promised reforms.
By announcing that the BC Liberals are finally looking at "a number of issues on liquor", so that changes can be made, has many of us advocating for changes collectively holding our breath. Can real change and the end to the Orwellian, Big Brother style of controlling the liquor industry and liquor consumption in BC be just around the corner?
You seem to be a man of action and I am sure it is no coincidence that the shift of responsibility for all things alcohol in BC to you, from the Ministry of the Solicitor General, came at a time when a grassroots movement and a groundswell of support calling for reforms to liquor laws was growing, rallied by the ridiculous and short-sighted decision by the LCLB and General Manager Karen Ayers to cripple The Rio Theatre's ability to show movies even when alcohol was not being served.
My only fear is that this promise to review and "fix" liquor law problems is motivated by the Liberal government's fear of populist, grassroots' movements, as you are still stinging from the whole HST debacle and the Bill Vander Zalm-lead campaign that resulted in the hated tax being repealed and not by truly recognizing that there is a need for change. There will be huge disappointment and a further decline in Liberal popularity with BC voters, if this review and reform turns out to be nothing more than a few superficial changes, made to give the appearance of listening to voters and acting on their concerns, to quell voter unrest, when in fact nothing really changes.
A few band-aids slapped on as a quick fix will not suffice when total reconstructive surgery is required.
It will take more than allowing us to enjoy a beer while watching a movie in a theatre to "fix" and "reform BC liquor laws.
For instance, why does the LDB have complete control over what alcohol is sold in this province, for what price and how it is distributed? Why must private liquor stores complete on an uneven playing field, having to buy all their liquor from the LDB who mark up the price so that these private stores must sell their alcohol at a higher price than the government run BC Liquor Stores? Why, for that matter, does the LDB mark-up booze well over 100% before selling it off to bars and restaurants who must again mark up the price to make a profit and cover their operating costs? Why does the LDB, not consumer demand, get to dictate what products the general public and the hospitality industry can and cannot buy? Why is it illegal for freedom of movement in regards to alcohol across provincial borders? Why can consumers not BYOB to restaurants like in other provinces like Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec? Why, in the name of public safety can there not be dancing and plugged in, live music in restaurants? Why can I bring my daughter into a restaurant with a wine and beer list ten pages long, with those wines and beers being consumed on all sides of us, yet I cannot take her into a small, quiet, local neighbourhood pub which may feature a tenth of the alcohol selection and offer a great food menu? Why is it so difficult to open small, local microbreweries and brew pubs?
I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.
I really hope you have taken the time to read this letter Mr Coleman as I am one of a legion of voters who feel the same way. We are fed up and we are tired of having our enjoyment restricted because a few out there may abuse the system and serve/consume alcohol irresponsibly. Let those of us who are responsible sell and consume responsibly, without government interference and punish those who do serve to minors, over-crowd their licensed establishments over-serve and over-consume. I hope during your "review" of liquor laws you take the time to consult with the hospitality industry, to listen to people like myself and include consumer advocacy groups such as CAMRA Vancouver and CAMRA BC who promote and educate about responsible consumption of alcohol.
Cautiously Optimistic Citizen of BC
President, CAMRA Vancouver
Authour of VanEast Beer Blog