Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Beer Lounge Possibilities in Vancouver to be Debated by City Council

Vancouver City Council is set to debate a motion put forward by NPA City Councilor George Affleck that proposes to look at what changes need to be made to allow for on-site consumption lounges for breweries, wineries and distilleries in Vancouver.

Several liquor law changes were announced Feb 08/13 by Rich Coleman, the minister responsible for alcohol policy in BC, among them a change allowing for breweries and distilleries to be allowed to apply for endorsements to their manufacturing licenses to have an on-site consumption area such as a lounge, tasting room or event area, putting them in line with the province's wineries who were allowed these possibilities for years. Due to zoning by-laws and liquor licensing policies in Vancouver, it was next to impossible to be able to apply for these types of on-site lounges as the zoning areas that typically allow for breweries, distilleries and wineries do not allow for liquor primary licensing.  

I wrote about this issue here, and here. I also wrote an email to Mayor Gregor Robertson and City Council about the conflict between Vancouver City zoning & licensing and Provincial liquor policy and received absolutely no response. I then wrote an open letter to Mayor Gregor and his City Council and finally did receive one response, from Affleck who met with me, listened to what I had to say and who put the motion together (see end of post for actual motion) triggering the debate set for the Vancouver City Council meeting April 23rd. It is an open meeting which allows for anyone who wants to speak directly to City Council on this subject to sign up with the City Clerk ahead of time to get a slot to speak.

“Current City of Vancouver regulations do not allow for brewery and distillery operations to offer customers samples and purchasing options. I’m asking staff to come back to Council with recommendations on how we can change that” said Affleck in a news release April 16.

“This motion is intended to bring the City of Vancouver up to date with Provincial policy directives, and is aimed at giving local breweries and distilleries a greater chance to thrive while adding to the vibrancy of the city’s robust food scene.”

It appears from the Twitter banter from @MayorGregor that the Mayor's office is now on-board with trying to make the necessary changes to allow breweries, distilleries and wineries and Affleck seems confident, stating in his press release that he had, "already received a great deal of support from the Mayor’s office since submitting the motion and am confident it will receive unanimous support at the Council table.”

On-site beer lounges could really open up Vancouver for smaller nano-style breweries to open up and sell their beer directly to consumers from the actual point of production. This in turn could be a boon for local consumers and beer tourists alike, giving Vancouver the opportunity to become something of a Portland North.

The motion put forward by George Affleck
Enabling the Micro-brewery and Distillery Industry

MOVER: George Affleck


1. The City of Vancouver prides itself on its local tourism sector;

2. The City of Vancouver wants to foster a robust local food scene, which includes the distilling of spirits, the making of wine and brewing of craft beer;

3. The Province of BC announced Policy Directive 13-02 effective March 1, 2013, which allows for changes to brewery and distillery operations in the province and the ability for customers to sample and purchase locally produced spirits and beer for on-site consumption;

4. The policy change thus align regulations for brewers and distillers with wineries who have been able to serve and sell wine for on-site consumption for years

5. The City of Vancouver's Zoning and Development Bylaw only permits micro-breweries, wineries and distilleries on industrial land to serve or sell product in a limited way because industrial land is not zoned for liquor primary;


A. THAT staff report back to Council on the required changes to the relevant regulations within the City of Vancouver that would permit micro-breweries, wineries and distilleries on industrial land to sample products produced on-site, thus being consistent with provincial liquor policy.


  1. Wow Paddy, this sounds very positive. Let's hope the political types don't drop the ball. Made my night. Cheers.

  2. It is time for the industry folks to speak up at the meeting and it sounds like they will be speaking to very sympathetic ears judging by the tweets coming from City Hall types.

  3. Excellent work Paddy, let's hope some real change comes from this.

    1. thanks Adam.
      Consumers, meaning CAMRA members have a BIG role to play and letting Vancouver City Council know they want these lounges to exist as well. During my meeting with Mr Affleck, he mentioned that to prompt changes to happen like this, it is important for the politicians to hear from consumers. Consumers are the majority, they are voters.
      Hopefully we will see CAMRA Vancouver members supporting any call to action you put out for twitter campaigns, emails to the mayor and his councilors or whatever else you have in mind!!

  4. Good job!

    Is this just a Vancouver problem? Do breweries in Victoria for example not have this issue?

    I know here in Kelowna our breweries offer their beer for sale, as well as tasting rooms... It sounds like Vancouver has some catching up to do!

    1. Thanks for the comments Alepinions
      i would find it hard to believe this is specific to Vancouver, but each municipality will be slightly different due to their own local zoning and licensing regulations. To tell you the truth, after looking into the Vancouver situation my head was spinning and I did not investigate other jurisdictions.

      Until march 1/13, beer lounges were illegal. Breweries could have tasting rooms, where you could sample beer for free and/or buy one 12oz beer per day and store fronts where they could sell packaged products and growlers to go, but no sales of beer for on-site consumption.

      If there were breweries in Kelowna, before March 1, selling beers to drink in their tasting rooms, above & beyond the one 12-oz glass per day, they were breaking the law. I'm not against civil disobedience, especially in cases like this, and I have known a few breweries here and there to break the rules over the years, but that is how the province was set up in regards to liquor laws.