In a press release issued today from Coleman's office, these are the changes I see as having the most impact on the craft beer consumer:
- "Small- and medium-sized liquor manufacturers" to have "three common ownership and business relationships with licensed establishments located off their manufacturing site." Translation, tied house laws have been relaxed and you will soon be able to enjoy Parallel 49 beers at St Augustine's come March 1/13.
- ""Brewers and distillers now can apply to have an on-site consumption area such as a lounge, tasting room or event area." Translation, beer lounges at breweries are not far off.
- "Rules around how liquor manufacturers can promote their products in bars and restaurants have been simplified by removing the requirement for a buy-sell agreement." Translation, breweries can now buy tap and shelf space legally and bars restaurants will be able to demand inducements for the right for a brewery to sell their product via the licensee.
My assumption is that they mean breweries who produce less than 160,000 Hectolitres per year, which means the big boys like Molson and Labatt cannot have tied houses. What is yet to be seen is whether Granville Island, owned by Molson, will be able to have three tied house arrangements, thereby giving Molson a way through the door. But even if this is the case, the press release goes on to explain that tied houses must also "carry a variety of products from different suppliers to avoid particular products being favoured," meaning they cannot shut out the competition in these licensed establishments.
Another question I have is how is how difficult are the government going to make it for breweries to have on-site beer lounges, which are essentially liquor primary licenses. Does that mean over-19 years old allowed only? What hoops will the brewery have to jump to get these licenses? This is the most significant of all the changes for craft breweries, in my opinion as now small nano-style breweries can operate and exist without ever having to distribute their beer. Growler fills and bottle sales from the tasting room-lounge combined with lounge revenue could be enough for these smaller breweries, with no plan to expand, to exist. This is, as far as I understand, the business model for Brassneck Brewery, who, under the new laws, could also offer their products at the Alibi Room due to the tied house law changes (Brassneck and the Alibi both have Nigel Springthorpe involved in ownership).
I am going to dig more and talk a bit more about how these changes could impact the craft beer scene come March 1, 2013 after I do some digging and reflecting on the announcement. As with everything announced by this government, I will wait until the fine print is produced to see just exactly these changes mean. The BC Liberals have a habit of making announcements that look to be making big changes to liquor laws when in fact, they are little more than tweaks and minor adjustments when the full extent of the changes are understood.