Monday, September 29, 2014

End Moratorium on LRS Licenses to Stop Exodus From Rural Areas - Quick, Easy Fix

I don't know why it took so long for people to figure out the negative impact the elimination of the "no more than five kilometre" rule for the buying and relocating of private liquor store (LRS) licenses would have on rural areas in BC.

In Friday's Vancouver Sun, an article appeared with the headline "Liquor licenses being sold in anticipation of new rules" which has caused a bit of a stir in some rural communities and among those who are interested in the BC retail alcohol industry.

This is not really breaking news as this situation has been bubbling and boiling for months now, even before the change to the BC liquor laws concerning relocating LRS licenses was announced last March by Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB) General Manager, Douglas Scott.

The old policy (which is still in place until some time next year) states that a LRS license can be sold and relocated, but that the new location can be no more than five kilometres from the old location. This ensured rural areas would not be abandoned and that there would not be an over-concentration of LRS locations in urban areas. The new policy, which is set to come into effect sometime in 2015, states that LRS licenses can be purchased then moved anywhere in BC, as long as they are not moved to within one kilometre of an existing LRS, government liquor store (GLS) or rural agency store (RAS).

My immediate thought at that time of the announcement was that LRS owners in smaller, rural areas, where commercial property is much cheaper than in urban areas, must be ecstatic as the value of their businesses just skyrocketed. In fact, before the announcement was made, I know there were big city types sniffing around in my town of Powell River, attempting to buy existing LRS locations and I do not think they were planning on leaving the big city for the fresh air and ocean views of the Sunshine Coast.

Obviously they were in the know and had been tipped off that this change was coming and they were trying to get in before the LRS prices trended upwards in the hinterlands of BC.

I remember sitting in my local, The Red Lion Pub, one of the LRS locations mentioned in the Sun article, discussing this fact with friends over a beer just after I had heard the planned law changes. It was as plain as day to me that sharp business folks were going to shop about in cheaper rural areas to buy LRS licenses and then move them out of their communities to more lucrative urban markets. The big city purchasers of these licenses do not care that the locals in the small communities are getting screwed and will be highly inconvenienced by the moving of their local LRS.

It was also obvious to me that smart LRS owners were going to increase the price of their businesses, if they were looking at selling, or be tempted to sell as their business was suddenly much more valuable and desirable on the market. LRS licenses are already a much-coveted commodity due to the moratorium on granting new licenses in BC and with the new policy, a LRS in Smalltown, BC was closer in value to those in say Vancouver, due to the fact that there were far less restrictions on relocating them.

This inflated value of all LRS locations and the and exodus of same from rural communities can all be blamed on moratorium on granting new retail liquor licenses. I see the solution to this problem as being quite simple - if a LRS license is sold and relocated more than a kilometre away, allow for another LRS license to be approved for the location where the license was moved from to replace that service for local consumers. The policy could stipulate that the new license could not be tied to anyone who had a financial stake in the license which had been sold and relocated to stop people from just opening up LRS locations and flipping them to those who want to relocate that license. The government could even put a stipulation that the new LRS license could not be relocated for five years...Hell, make it 10 years!

The Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) should have been yelling loudly at the government during their recently held convention but they were too distracted by the more pressing issues of saving rural, coastal communities by trying to right the BC Ferries shipwreck.

I think that allowing LRS licenses to be relocated anywhere in BC is not a bad decision, provided the government allow for the replacement of that service in the community the LRS is moved from.

As I have said in the past, BC liquor policy needs to make sense for all of British Columbians, not just those who live in urban areas.

Small BC communities are already struggling to attract and hang on to viable businesses and this stupid, short-sighted change to liquor policies is going to do just the opposite by encouraging small town business owners to flog their LRS's at falsely-inflated prices, to those who have no plan to keep that business in an area where it is much needed. Once again it is the consumers who are getting shafted by the BC Liberal liquor law reforms - specifically the consumers in rural areas. Like with the increase in the minimum drink price, which has impacted many rural areas negatively by driving the price of beer up, those who are drafting the new policies did not look at the impact this would have on British Columbian alcohol consumers outside urban areas.

Or if they did, the Liberals simply did not care that rural consumers, who already have limited choices, would be further limited and their communities without a successful business which provided  much-needed employment and services.

I cannot blame those who own LRS locations in small towns or those who wish to buy these licenses and move them. They are business people trying to maximize their assets. They are doing nothing shady or illegal. They are doing what is allowed under the law.

Those owners in small communities will have to deal with the fallout of selling what potentially could be the only LRS license in the area which would leave their neighbours and those they bump into on a daily basis without an outlet to buy booze outside of the local BC Liquor Store's restricted hours or the limited selection at the local rural liquor store (RAS) if there is one. But some cold stares and snide comments will be a little easier to take for these business folks due to the fact they probably were paid far more than they ever imagined they would get for their business.

Lift the moratorium and this all goes away. Those wishing to sell can still make a pretty penny for their businesses to be bought and relocated but at least there would be a mechanism in place for consumers in small towns to be somewhat protected.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Federal Government Want to Make Sure a Pint is a Pint - Maximum Fines of Up to $50,000 for Repeat Short-Pour Offenders Now Federal Law.

"You're entitled to get what you pay for"  - Industry Canada

The Campaign for Real Ale of BC's (CAMRA BC) Fess Up to Serving Sizes (#FUSS) Campaign received some unexpected help August 1st when the Canadian Federal Government launched their "Fairness at the Pumps" Campaign.

Fairness at the Pumps states, "(e)ffective August 1, 2014, the law states that businesses who short sell consumers, on purpose or through carelessness, can face penalties or court-imposed fines of up to $50,000."  

The information on Industry Canada's website, which clearly includes draft beer servings in the campaign, encourages consumers to file a complaint if they suspect they are "not getting what they paid for" and provides instructions as to what information is required to help Measurement Canada investigate and a link to file the complaint electronically, by telephone or by snail mail. They are even using the hashtag #getwhatyoupayfor in tweets, something I would recommend consumers do so Industry Canada can track interest regarding this new law.

instruction on how to file an official complaint if you suspect you have been short-poured

It also appears that CAMRA BC's #FUSS Campaign is finally being acknowledged by the BC Liberal Government who included the following in their last liquor policy update concerning lowering the minimum drink price for serving sizes of over 50 ounces for draft beer and cider:
"Pubs and restaurants serve draught beer and cider in a variety of sizes - generally, 9 oz., 16 oz. or 20 oz. glasses, or by the pitcher (approximately 60 oz.). If unsure, British Columbians are encouraged to ask establishments what their serving sizes are, so they can be sure of the per-ounce price they are paying and be better aware of the amount of alcohol they are consuming.
  • As part of the terms of their licence, B.C.’s licensed establishments must have a drink list available to consumers that outlines their serving sizes.
Until this announcement the BC Liberals have brushed off CAMRA BC's complaints that many pubs and restaurants do not declare their serving sizes and if they do list them, they do so inaccurately. Although they do not  state they are going to enforce the law and put the ball clearly in the court of the consumer to follow up, the Liberals have at least acknowledged publicly to consumers this serving size list requirement exists and also have acknowledged that not knowing how much alcohol you are consuming can impact consumers in a negative way, something CAMRA BC has been pointing out to the LCLB & the Liberals for years.

Now it appears that Industry Canada is ready to go to bat for draft beer consumers in our country but here in BC the only fly in the ointment is that if the LCLB does not enforce strictly the need for posted serving sizes, and a licensee has no listed serving size, then consumers cannot complain they are being short-poured as they will not know what a full-pour measure is.  

For the Measurement Canada to able to investigate a serving size issue, they need to know what that serving size is supposed to be. 

Conveniently, the Liberals left out the information that if a licensee cannot produce a serving size-price list for their alcoholic beverages, you can make a formal complaint to the LCLB at or by calling 1-866 209-2111 and they are compelled to send a liquor inspector to investigate and enforce the law.

Both levels of government have put the burden of responsibility onto consumers who they are advising to file complaints if draft beer servings are short-pour or misrepresented. If you really want to make sure a pint is a pint and stop this practice of misrepresenting serving sizes and short pouring by some licensees, you need to take action and file an official complaint. 

Both the Canadian Government and BC Provincial Government have opened the door, acknowledged there is an issue and given consumers the information they need to kick in that door for good, but it is up to consumers to ensure they get what they pay for.

If you are short-poured or an establishment does not have a serving size list when you ask for one, try to resolve the issue by talking to the management of the establishment in a polite manner. If you still cannot resolve the issue to your satisfaction, put the government bureaucrats to work and file a complaint.

It be fantastic to be able to say you live in a province where a pint is a pint!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Close But No Cigar - Draft Beer Pitchers Minimum Price Lowered But Status Quo for Everything Else

They were so close to doing the right thing but in the end the BC Liberals did little too correct their epic failure regarding new drink price minimums in BC.

In what can only be described as a knee-jerk reaction to negative feedback received concerning the controversial liquor drink price minimums announced June 20th, the BC Liberals send out a notice today that they were , "(c)reating a new category for draught beer and cider servings 50 oz. and over - with a minimum price of $0.20 per oz," to "better meet the expectations of British Columbians". 

Today's announcement stated that draught beer servings over 50 oz (1420ml), otherwise known as pitchers, will have a minimum drink price set at $0.20 per ounce/28ml but all other draught beer serving sizes will remain at new minimum of $0.25 per oz/28ml which is by far the highest in Canada.

For the record, even the new pitcher category, at $0.20 per oz/28ml is still the highest beer minimum in Canada. 

Parliamentary Secretary for Liquor Policy Reform, John Yap, was quoted in the announcement as saying, 
"The B.C. Liquor Policy Review has been centred on listening to the views of British Columbians and industry stakeholders, and best aligning any changes we make with their views. Upon reviewing B.C.’s minimum prices, we realized they weren't on par with consumers’ expectations and we took action to find a fair compromise that still upholds B.C.’s high standards for health and safety.”
I am curious how he came to the conclusion that encouraging consumers to buy the biggest serving size possible "upholds B.C.’s high standards for health and safety"?

Imagine this conversation:

Friend 1: "I see that a pitcher is cheaper by the ounce than a 16-oz sleeve! I was just going to have one sleeve but why don't we order the pitcher so we can take advantage of this great deal?"

Friend 2: "Yeah, I was just going to have one as well, but to Hell with it, lets get the pitcher. One or two extra beers never caused anyone any the way, are you driving home?"

As craft beer drinkers, this change will impact us in a very limited way. Very few craft-beer-friendly places serve pitchers as most craft beers are stronger in alcohol so licensees do not feel it is appropriate to offer the bigger serving sizes. In fact, fewer and fewer licensees are even offering pitchers any more as, more often than not, draught beer serving sizes are being reduced to the ever-shrinking "sleeve" glass.

This change will give some slight relief to those who enjoy the mainstream lagers that have dominated the Canadian market for decades but, as mentioned, they will still be paying far more for their happy hour pitchers than in other provinces in Canada.

This is a bizarre move by Justice Minister-Attorney General, Suzanne Anton and Yap and I really wonder if they do think they are "listening" to British Columbians and that this change will placate the masses who are seriously pissed off about the June 20th minimum drink price-happy hour announcement. Don't get me wrong, today's announcement is a baby step in the right direction, but at the end of the day, I would have to say that the BC Liberals and those dealing with the liquor policy reforms have shit the bed once again.

They cannot really believe we are that stupid to believe this small, token change fixes the EPIC FAIL that is our new minimum drink price standards.

I will be writing more on this subject over the weekend but just wanted to get a quick post out there to let everyone know what was going on.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Stateside Craft Does the Right Thing by Their Customers

At least one Commercial Drive beer joint recently caught short-pouring customers have made a considerable effort to "serve it right" to give their customers what they are paying for and as a result have received  #FUSS Approved status from the Vancouver branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) of BC.

Stateside Craft, located at 1st Avenue and Commercial Drive, have changed their glassware to a larger size in order to ensure they can fully deliver on their promised serving size of draft beer after it was posted on social media a few weeks ago that they were serving 12-oz pours when they were claiming serving sizes of 14 ounces.

Stateside had been advertising 14 ounces, but in fact, their glasses filled to the brim were capable of holding that volume so with head, as is essential with a good pour, and a little space to make sure the beer did not spill over when transported to the table, the pour came in at 12 ounces. This practice of advertising the glass capacity and not the actual volume of beer poured is a widespread practice in BC that actually puts licensees at odds with the law according to Measurement Canada.

I know 2 ounces does not sound like much, but for a 14-oz beer that is $7, which is not uncommon in craft beer places in Vancouver, being 2 oz short is the equivalent of short-pouring by $1  before tax and tip. Add that up over a year and see how much money for nothing you may be forking out at places skimming off the top of their beer servings.

Almost immediately after the short-pour video hit social media, Stateside representatives stated they would right the wrong and it appears they have followed through.

CAMRA Vancouver president, Adam Chatburn, who was on the original measuring adventure, went back to Stateside July 15th and found that the glassware had indeed changed. The measure posted also had changed from 14 oz to 400,000,000,000 picolitres, a cheeky but valid use of the metric system that is legal and works out to 400 ml or about 14 oz. Chatburn measured his beer and found the serving to be, "spot on." (see post here) He also found, that except for the cider, which is a very high quality and high priced item, the beer prices had not changed. 

Stateside have turned a negative into a positive by doing the right thing
and fixing serving size-pour issues. Lets hope they get consumer support
& other craft beer places follow suit

"It just shows that establishments that are committed to the craft beer community are prepared to do the right thing and give consumers the beer they promised," stated a very pleased Chatburn who posted here to give Stateside praise. "Congratulations to Stateside Craft and thanks for stepping up and doing the right thing for consumers, it’s businesses like this who are leading the way serving craft beer. 

Chatburn hopes this change to honest and accurate pours will garner consumer support and states in his post, 
"if you've not been there  (Stateside) yet I can give them the #FUSS seal of approval so you know that when you put your money down you’ll get every last picolitre of beer (or amazing cider) you paid for."

Stateside Craft was one of several Commercial Drive establishments found to be serving less beer than their serving sizes indicated when Chatburn and a friend headed out armed with a calibrated cup, high definition camera, their smart phones, a thirst for beer and a healthy curiosity on July 5th. The pair posted their findings, including videos (click here & go to bottom of page), immediately on social media which caused a bit of a stir in the Vancouver craft beer community. Out of all the tests posted that day from five different establishments, only one pour hit the mark, that being Tangent Cafe's 12-oz pour. The rest fell short of the promised volume including a "pint" at Vera's Burger Shack which measured only 16 ounces.

In Canada, if a pint is advertised, it must be 20 imperial ounces if ounces are used to indicate volume and that does not include head.

As a consumer, I know I will support the Hell out of Stateside for making this move, as long as they continue to offer up accurate serving sizes & pours and hope other craft beer consumers do as well. I also hope other licensees in the craft community take note of what Stateside have done and get on board with CAMRA BC's #FUSS Campaign and give their customers what they are paying for.

Chatburn is continuing to hit Vancouver area establishments who serve draft beer and carry out is "research". This move is apart of the CAMRA BC Fess Up to Serving Sizes (#FUSS) a consumer advocacy campaign aimed at getting licensees to post their draft beer serving sizes and then deliver the posted volume of beer. The #FUSS Campaign was mounted to try to combat the widespread practice of misrepresenting serving sizes and short pouring here in BC. The Campaign for Real Ale of BC are an independent, consumer advocacy group, with approximately 1,500 paid members, championing the rights of BC's craft beer consumers.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Justice Minister Brushes Off Beer Consumer's Complaints About Being Cheated

British Columbia's Attorney General and Justice Minister, Suzanne Anton, recently told craft beer consumer
advocates, the Campaign for Real Ale  (CAMRA) of BC, that consumers are on their own, as far as she is concerned, if they feel they are being cheated or mislead about the serving size of their draft beer.

In a response to a letter sent by CAMRA BC to Anton (read here), imploring her to endorse CAMRA BC's Fess Up to Serving Sizes (FUSS) Campaign and to consider making a few more much-needed changes to the Liquor Control & Licensing Branch (LCLB) policies to help protect consumers and promote public health and safety, Anton wrote, via e-mail,
 "If a customer is not pleased with the service in an establishment, they have the choice of raising the issue with the licensee or taking their business to other bars or restaurants"
As a BC consumer, it does not make me feel very confident when the province's Justice Minister appears to be condoning or ignoring business practices that see consumers being defrauded and purposely mislead and misinformed about what they are purchasing.

In their letter, CAMRA BC also suggested having a policy requiring certified marked glassware, with "fill to here" (plimsol) lines indicating the volume, and having the alcohol content of beer (ABV) added to the legally-required serving size list. CAMRA BC believes that by making these two changes to BC liquor policy, along with the enforcement of the serving size list requirement, consumers and servers will better know exactly how much alcohol is being served and consumed which will help them better monitor over-serving and over-consumption, important in BC with the popularity of higher alcohol craft beers, strict Serving it Right rules for alcohol and tough drinking and driving laws.

Anton's response, which you can read in full here, was, at best, a brush off and seems to indicate that the Justice Minister and/or her staff:

  • did not read the letter
  • read the letter and did not understand what CAMRA BC was getting at 
  • read the letter and simply did not care that BC draft beer drinkers are being lied to, short-poured and defrauded when it comes to draft beer serving sizes in this province.
  • have no real interest in truly striking a balance between consumer wants/needs and public health and safety
Even though the focus of the letter was on getting enforcement concerning serving-size-price lists, Anton did nothing more than point out what CAMRA BC already knew, that this legal requirement for a list exists, and stated, "beyond that, government's focus is not on the array of serving sizes found within the province."

It seems to me that the Justice Minister is saying, "yes, we have that law, but no, we are not going to enforce it. We trust you, licensees of BC." 

To borrow an analogy from CAMRA Vancouver president, Adam Chatburn, isn't that like posting a speed limit then nailing a sign below the posted speed saying, "but don't worry, we aren't enforcing this. We trust you to comply with the speed limit"? 
Justice Minister Anton says
no to gov't required plimsol
lines for draft beer glasses

In addition, Anton advised CAMRA BC the BC Liberals would not consider requiring the use of certified, marked glassware, stating, 
"Government's resources and focus lay heavily on public safety issues, such as over-crowding, minors accessing alcohol, public disturbance, illegal activities, and so forth.  It would be a burden for provincial liquor inspectors and police to measure glassware in addition to their other duties."
Would liquor inspectors and police not have more time on their hands to deal with public safety issues, like such as over-crowding, minors accessing alcohol, public disturbance, etc, because they would NOT be burdened with measuring volumes in glassware because those that certified the glassware and placed the plimsol (fill-to-here) lines had already done that!

With the minimum price of a glass of beer tied directly to volume, $0.25/oz or 28ml due to new BC minimum drink price legislation, would the government not have a vested interest in knowing if licensees are reporting proper serving sizes so that the government gets an accurate amount of alcohol tax?

I don't understand a government that passes a policy tying drink prices to volumes served when they have no interest in the volume of serving sizes in the first place.

I know many licensees who think marked glassware is a great idea and the perfect way to level the playing field between unscrupulous licensees and those who want to serve it right and be honest.

Although there is a cost attached to replacing glassware, if brought into effect over a period of time so glasses could be replaced through normal wear & tear & attrition, the cost would be less burdensome to licensees. And although there is a shortage of suppliers at the moment providing glassware with plimsol lines, I am sure some clever business  person would quickly fill the void if they new that using such glasses was going to be a legal requirement for all licensed establishments.

For those not familiar with CAMRA BC's FUSS Campaign, the consumer advocates have been pushing the LCLB, which Anton is currently responsible for, to enforce their policy that all liquor licensees, in the Justice Minister's own words, "must have a list available showing drinks, drink sizes and prices," in order to give consumers the information necessary to make informed decisions and to help eliminate the misrepresentation of draft beer serving sizes.

The campaign was started in 2011 by the CAMRA BC Vancouver branch who were being inundated with complaints from consumers (some members, some not) that there was wide-spread misrepresentation of draft beer serving sizes - being told they were ordering a certain volume of beer and being served much less - and that the serving size list requirement was basically being ignored so consumers had no idea what volume of beer they were ordering before it actually arrived at the table.

The government talks about striking a balance between consumers needs and public health and safety yet they continue to ignore and brush aside complaints about dubious practices by some licensees which impact public health and safety negatively and violate consumers' rights. This call to enforce the existing law and make these changes would benefit everyone...except the dishonest licensees whose practices are now forcing industry-wide fraud as everyone must complete in the marketplace and being honest puts a licensee at risk of looking bad and losing customers.

BC beer consumers should be outraged that the BC Liberal Government, via their Justice Minister-Attorney, are completely ignoring this issue. Not all consumers care, but there are a great many who do. Not all licensees are unscrupulous, but those who aren't are feeling pressure to use questionable methods of making their draft beer pricing more attractive to consumers.

For the life of me, I do not understand why the LCLB and the Provincial Government do not take this problem seriously.

Maybe if if 1/2-litre carafes of wine started arriving with 350ml in them or 1.5 oz servings of scotch were arriving in one-ounce measures we might see some action...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Consumers Rejoice as Getting Good Head in Your Local Pub Should Be Free of Charge!!

Every  craft beer lover worth their weight in hops knows the head on a beer is an important part of the experience and a must for any good draft craft pour.

And even though the more discerning consumers demand their beer arrive with that essential froth and foam on top of the beer, many of them probably do not know that they do not have to pay for the privilege of having well-poured beer.

That's right - by law, the head/foam/froth, whatever you want to call it, that is on top of the liquid inside your beer glass is not considered part of the serving size volume you are paying for despite what many licensees, and consumers for that matter, tell you.

Measurement Canada is a government agency who, in their own words,

"is responsible for ensuring the integrity and accuracy of measurement in the Canadian marketplace. We:
  • develop and administer the laws and requirements governing measurement,
  • evaluate, approve and certify measuring devices, and
  • investigate complaints of suspected inaccurate measurement"
I wrote Measurement Canada after the weekend hubbub (click the link to get CAMRA Vancouver president Adam Chatburn's version of events), what I have dubbed the shit storm in a beer glass, and asked specifically if the head of a beer was considered by law to be apart of the volume of the serving size.

The response from Measurement Canada was very clear; the foam at the top is not included.

I had also written them about clarification on serving sizes, acceptable  margins for error and what to do if you had a complaint.

Here is their response:

"Vendors are required by the Weights and Measures Act to deliver, within the applicable limits of error, the quantity of product they are claiming to sell.  This includes individual servings of beer sold in restaurants, pubs, bars, etc.

In Canada, a pint contains 20 ounces (568ml); therefore, a vendor selling a pint of beer must deliver 20 fluid ounces of beer. The limit of error for 20 fluid ounces is 0.5 fluid ounces.  So, if a vendor is claiming to sell a pint of beer, then 20 fluid ounces of beer should be delivered to the customer with a minimum of 19.5 fluid ounces of beer in the glass.

When a vendor is not advertising a pint and is claiming a lesser amount, e.g. 14 fluid ounces then 14 fluid ounces is the quantity that must be delivered."

That limit of error, if my math is right, is 2.5% of the serving size volume. Again, not much room for misinterpretation, especially when combined with the "no foam"  response. 

I only found out about Measurement Canada recently when a consumer - an admitted non-CAMRA member and one who tends towards non-craft beers but who has been following #FUSS closely - contacted me regarding a complaint about the Terminal Pub in New Westminster where he was convinced the pint advertised on the menu was actually being served in a 16-oz sleeve. He asked me where he could complain and I directed him towards the LCLB and his MLA, who he contacted. Both his MLA and the LCLB directed him to Measurement Canada who took his complaint, investigated and got back to him with the news that the Terminal was switching to the proper glassware to provide a pint as they were advertising.

I haven't heard back yet if the change has happened, but the point of the matter is, Measurement Canada received to complaint and acted.

To further clarify things, according to the Weights and Measures Act, both millilitres and ounces as long as those ounces are Canadian units which are based on the Imperial System, not the US measurements for ounces. 

So no, licensees cannot advertise a "pint" and serve you 16oz stating "that is an American pint". A pint in Canada is 568ml or 20 Canadian ounces end of story.

So there you have it folks - seems pretty clear-cut as far as the law goes. 

Now take that info and do what ever you want to do with it. Licensees do have the choice to ignore the above posted information from Measurement Canada and/or ignore the legal provincial requirement to have a serving-size-price list but if they do, they do run the risk of being complained about and/or exposed by consumers feeling they are not getting all that they paid for. I know this information will not be popular with a lot of licensees but they have had a good run, the field has been tilted in their favour for a long time and there should be no more excuses about "industry standards" or misunderstandings about what is considered a serving size and what needs to be delivered, "within the applicable limits of error"  to the consumer. 

Consumers can also choose to ignore short pours if they are comfortable with paying for beer that is not in their glass. Up to them. No skin off my nose. It is their choice to do what they want with their money.

But those who do care do seem to be within their legal right to politely bring up the issue to the licensee or their representative and if a reasonable solution is not agreed upon, take that complaint to the next level which is Measurement Canada for short pours and the LCLB for no serving size list. 

For those consumers who do choose to stand up for their consumer rights, see the info about where to lodge your complaints below.

For Measurement Canada they wrote me, If you believe you received an inaccurate measurement, you can find information on how to file a complaint with Measurement Canada on our website.  In this case, the section “Other” applies.  Alternatively, you can call Measurement Canada’s Western Region Office at 1-855-666-3834 or email

For the LCLB for complaints about no serving size list click the link here.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Shit Storm in a Beer Glass

This past weekend there was a shit storm that hit the Vancouver craft beer community.

Draft beer consumers, fed up with their belief that they are systematically being mislead about serving sizes, collided with liquor licensees who pour, in a way they feel is acceptable, the craft beers we so love. This collision had social media buzzing as folks weighed in on the differences of opinion which I will get into below.

I learned something during the course of the discussion that, naively, I had never thought of before; consumers and licensees define draft beer serving sizes differently.

Somewhere along the way it has become somewhat of an industry standard in Vancouver for licensees to use the size of a serving vessel as the serving size they post on serving size/price lists and/or convey verbally to consumers while many, if not most, consumers consider that actual amount of beer that arrives in the glass to be the serving size.

And this fundamental difference of opinion is causing some great unrest in some quarters of the tight-knit Vancouver craft beer community.

What is the difference you ask?

Well, consider if a bar uses 14-oz sleeves for their draft beer and post 14-oz as their serving size.

That glass would have to be filled to the brim, without any head, to achieve the advertised volume and would be so full it would be impossible for a server to carry without spilling all over the place.

No craft beer lover wants their beer served without the appropriate amount of head and no craft beer lover wants to see their favourite brew end up on a serving tray or the floor. And no craft beer licensee wants the spillage that accompanies filling a glass to the brim.

Realistically, that 14-oz sleeve, if poured properly, will arrive with about 12 oz of beer in it. In this example, approximately one/seventh, or  a little over 14%, of the advertised serving is not being delivered to the customer, which for a $7 sleeve works out to $1, before tax, being paid by the consumer for nothing more than foam and air.

If you take into consideration the 15% alcohol tax and a modest 15% tip you are looking at $1.30 vanishing into thin air for each beer you order using the above example.

Measurement Canada, who police this type of thing, told me in an e-mail a few weeks ago,
"Vendors are required by the Weights and Measures Act to deliver, within the applicable limits of error, the quantity of product they are claiming to sell.  This includes individual servings of beer sold in restaurants, pubs, bars, etc." 
The "applicable limits of error" mentioned in the e-mail is 2.5%. That is only 0.5 oz of error allowed for a pint and 0.35 of an ounce for a 14 oz pour.

It seems consumers legally, if they care about such things (and not all do), do have a legitimate beef.

In contrast, licensees, especially in Vancouver, are feeling pressure to do all they can to compete and attract customers in a highly competitive market.

I have been told by more than a few licensees that because using the glass size has become the "industry standard" in Vancouver for serving sizes, they are feeling compelled to advertise the glass capacity as the serving size is, even if they know that full measure is not arriving at the customer's table. They are feeling forced, they tell me, to make the decision to serve the way they are in order to compete with the next bar next door who is doing so. Being ethical and saying you serve 12 oz in a 14-oz glass for the same price as the bar next door who say they serve 14 oz in a 14-oz glass means the possibility of lost customers.

I don't think for the majority of licensees are dishonest and maliciously set out to cheat their customers - they are just doing what everyone else is doing in the Vancouver marketplace. I know some bar and restaurant owners very well; some are my dear friends, welcome in my home any time, honest and well-meaning and I support the Hell out of them and their businesses any time I can.

Unfortunately, the widespread practice, that has been adopted by even the most honest of folks out there, is illegal. It is not acceptable that consumers should be expected to donate money, from 15-20% at times, for goods they do not receive, to businesses so those businesses can compete in an industry that has little margin for error.

And it sucks that we have such a screwed up "industry standard" that forces honest, good-intentioned licensees to have to make this kind of ethical decision just to feel they can compete in the marketplace with unscrupulous types who operate with impunity due to government disinterest and consumer apathy.

Last Saturday a few craft beer consumers, including CAMRA Vancouver president, Adam Chatburn, who does care about getting what he pays for, headed out to a few of Commercial Drive restaurants and bars, armed with a calibrated glass and their cell phones, and proceeded to find out the posted or verbally conveyed serving size for beers, ordered those beers, measured the volume of beer they received, videoed the results and tweeted these videos and the numbers.

They found that most establishments- only Tangent Cafe was commended for their perfect 12-oz pour - served glasses of beer that fell short, well outside the legal margin for error, compared to the serving sizes promised. In one establishment they found a 20% difference between volume promised and volume delivered when the pint they ordered came in a sleeve.

The posting of these results initiated the above mentioned shit storm.

Some applauded, others booed. Some heaped praise on those posting, others called them down and got personal. I am not here to talk about the process, the reactions, the exact results or whether what these consumers did was right or wrong. You can go here to read CAMRA Vancouver President, Adam Chatburn's explanation of what went down, why they did it and what they found out from his perspective.

This whole thing has come to a head because of CAMRA BC's Fess Up to Serving Sizes Campaign (FUSS) which is nothing more than trying to get licensed establishments to accurately provide their draft beer serving sizes then deliver on that promise as required by both federal and provincial law.

That is what FUSS is - nothing more, nothing less.

I know because FUSS was an idea I came up with a little over 2.5 years ago.

I didn't just pull FUSS out of my ass; I came up with the idea when I was in the president of CAMRA Vancouver after receiving a bazillion complaints from members and non-members alike who believed they were getting much smaller measures in their glasses than they were being promised when they ordered. I thought it would be great for Vancouver craft beer consumers to get CAMRA friendly bars and restaurants to provide a list of their draft beer servings sizes, as required by law, and then lead the charge by producing said measures in hopes that craft beer consumers would be satisfied and these establishments would see increased business due to their transparency regarding what they were serving.

Easy, right? A win-win situation.

Well, not so much as this has turned into a mess with legal and consumer expectations conflicting with the need for licensees to compete in a very cut-throat and often dishonest market. There was, in fact, considerable push back from some on the industry side of the craft beer community, although I will say, most of the feedback was positive and in support of the campaign.

So how do we clean up this mess?

The best way would be for all bars to have marked glassware - glasses with plimsol (fill-to-here) lines so that both those serving and those being served could see that the promised volume was in the glass. CAMRA BC proposed this to John Yap during the liquor policy review and suggested it be phased in over two years so glassware could be replaced slowly when needed via attrition. BC used to have these types of glasses - I can remember them in my early days of going to the pub - but they have long since disappeared.

The government are not interested in legislating the requirement for marked glassware and I have been told by licensees that there is a problem with finding marked glassware and that these glasses are expensive.

The simple solution, which isn't perfect, but which could work, is for licensees to buy glassware that is larger than their planned serving size - i.e., a 16-oz sleeve for a 14-oz serving - leaving room for foam and eliminating the need to fill the glass to the brim.

It would mean eye-balling the amount going into the glass but it shouldn't take long for the bartenders of the city to figure out where on the glass they have to be to hit the mark.

Bars and restaurants who did this could then be uber-supported by CAMRA BC, CAMRA Vancouver, who could run campaigns lauding these places for their transparency and ethical choice to serve it right and be 100% honest about what they are serving. CAMRA could also continue to push the provincial government and Measurement Canada to nail places that do not comply with the law. The craft beer consumers and us who write about such things could support these places by tweeting, posting, writing and talking about them and more importantly, frequenting them over those establishments who choose the status quo.

I have heard that one of the bars called out on Saturday has, as a result of the incident, decided to go this route and order 16-oz glassware to properly fit the 14-oz pours they advertise. Good for them. I hope they follow through, I hope they get the recognition they deserve for turning a negative into a positive and I hope consumers and CAMRA BC support the Hell out of them to both reward them and encourage others to follow suit. I know when I find out they have followed through I will be giving them my support.

Something has to give as this issue is not going to go away and CAMRA BC and CAMRA Vancouver are not going to go away. It is a mess, caused by consumers not standing up for their rights for decades and government not giving shit, and it needs to be fixed.

Let's work together as a craft beer community, consumers and businesses together, to find a workable solution instead of pointing fingers at each other. It really sucks that friends are finding themselves on the opposite side of the fence on this issue when all can be on the side of fixing the problem.

I know some of you out there are going to bash me for this post...give er. This is how I see it and I think it is important. I don't like being expected to accept a situation that is fundamentally wrong and I won't.

If you don't care about this, good for you. Carry on paying for foam and air. But remember, that payment for nothing could be going towards your next, already-expensive sleeve.

This, at its core, it what CAMRA BC is all about. CAMRA BC is a consumer advocacy group, not a beer club or a kiss-industry's-ass club.

If you are a member and feel FUSS is misguided and wrong, get involved, get elected and change the course of your society.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

BC Now Ranked 9th Highest for Domestic Beer Prices in the World! (if we were a country)

Recently BC introduced new minimum beer prices that force licensees to sell beer for on-site (in bar or
see larger image here
restaurant) consumption for $0.25 per 28 ml (one ounce) which are the highest beer prices in Canada.

And if that was not bad enough news for BC beer consumers, according to the website, we are now also the ranked 9th highest IN THE WORLD for domestic beer prices!!

Using a 500 ml (18 oz pour) as the gage, BC, at $4.50, finds only Iran ($8.32), United Arab Emirates ($6.47), Papua New Guinea ($6.45), Singapore ($4.99), Australia ($4.85), Norway, $4.82, Afghanistan ($4.62) and Qatar ($4.56) with higher priced domestic beer.

According to this website, it is cheaper to get a beer in countries known for their liberal attitudes like Kuwait, Libya and Iraq.

Just for the record, the website ranks Canada at 20th, with an 18 oz pour averaging $2.86 well below BC's newly set minimum.

I am not sure how reliable these statistics are, as they are compiled by input from users of the website around the world. But since health care advocates are freely using vaguely referenced studies, unsupported statistics and statistics taken out of context, I am going to put these numbers out there for all to ponder and have a little fun with them.

The website  where I found these stats, via a post on and an post by David Adeleman, states, "Numbeo is the world’s largest database of user contributed data about cities and countries worldwide. Numbeo provides current and timely information on world living conditions including cost of living, housing indicators, health care, traffic, crime and pollution. Numbeo uses the wisdom of the crowd to obtain the most reliable information possible."

If these stats are remotely accurate, it does not paint a pretty picture for BC beer consumers. It is yet another reason we need to voice our opinions loud and clear to Premier Christy Clark, Justice Minister Suzanne Anton, et al.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Call to Action - Please Take A Minute to Make a Difference

As you all know I am thoroughly disgusted by the ill-though-through policy that has introduced a new
kind of sums it all up doesn't it? photo by dennis the foodie
minimum drink price here in BC, giving us the highest drink price minimum in the country.

From the thousands of hits on my posts related to this and the overwhelming negative reaction to this policy I have received in the form of emails, tweets, comments & Facebook comments, I think it is time to act and let those who brought in this policy, and those who can advocate on behalf of alcohol consumers in BC, know we want this changed.

You may think, "why bother", but I can tell you from past experience, this works. When a politician gets 50-100 e-mails related to a certain issue, they take notice. When they get hundreds, especially of the negative variety, they get nervous and tend towards action. If they get thousands, well, they simply cannot ignore them.

If we act, maybe the Liberals will find a way to save face and fix this bad policy.

One thing is certain; if we do not act, nothing will happen. Please bcc me so I can keep track of the numbers of e-mails sent.

The e-mail does not need to be long. Short, sweet, polite and to-the-point. If you have specific examples as to how this new minimum drink policy is negatively impacting you - i.e., prices at your local have gone up, or the discount provided at your local being minimal because the drink price minimum is only slightly lower than the regular price - use them. I would recommend just sending one email and addressing it to all you want to send it to. I have provided email addresses below for you to cut and paste and a link so you can find your local MLA's contact info.

I would also suggest you "like" the Fix BC Happy Hour Facebook page as I am sure the politicians are keeping tabs on it and seeing the numbers rise substantially will make them nervous as well. Yes, I know Bill Tieleman has ties to the NDP and was one of their strategists, but this isn't about political parties, it is about getting bad policy fixed so it works for all of BC, not just those who want to see increases to alcohol prices in BC.

This policy just makes no sense.  Previous to this new legislation, there were literally hundreds of daily drink specials - specials that had to be maintained for the entire time a licensee was open that day - that were lower than the current drink price minimums and there seemed to be no issues or need to fix things due to widespread drunkenness, abuse and over-serving.

Now, to protect ourselves from ourselves, they have introduced temporary specials, happy hours, at higher prices to what end as the pricing during the daily specials were not causing undue problems. As well, in other provinces with substantially lower minimum drink prices, there are no glaring issues or problems that I have seen. The last time I was in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary or Halifax, I did not see drunken mayhem in the streets, yet our government, who were sold a bill of goods by "industry & health advocates", saw the need to set our minimum much higher to prevent problems that quite frankly do not exist in other jurisdictions.

Please write. Encourage your friends and family of drinking age to write. Remember to state in your e-mail you are a registered voter as losing votes is one of the few things that gets a politicians attention 100% of the time.

Here are some relevant e-mail addresses:

Christy Clark -
Suzanne Anton (Justice Minister)  -
Douglas Scott (GM of Liquor Control & Licensing) -
John Yap -
Shane Simpson (NDP critic liquor portfolio) -
VanEast Beer Blog -

List for MLA contact info

Friday, June 27, 2014

More Price Increases to Come for BC Craft Beer Drinkers?

Many in BC find themselves paying more for their beer this week than they did last week due to the BC Liberal Party's announcement of new minimum drink prices, which are now the highest in the country, but this may not be the last beer drinkers see for price hikes.

I have heard, though the grapevine, that the government is still planning on tying beer prices to alcohol content (ABV), in the name of public health and safety, because apparently us alcohol consumers just can't stop ourselves from over-consuming and we are all incapable of self-regulating.

Recommendation #18, in Parliamentary Secretary John Yap's BC Liquor Policy Review Final Report, submitted to Justice Minister and Attorney General, Suzanne Anton, states:
"LDB should consider tying minimum prices to the amount of alcohol (e.g., a beer with seven per cent alcohol would have a higher minimum price than a beer with four per cent alcohol)" 
When the new minimum price structure was announced last week, I thought maybe the Liberals were backing away from this recommendation, as I had heard from some reliable sources that Christy Clark and her crew were afraid of the public backlash related to increased liquor pricing, but that is obviously not true as the new minimum is taking its toll in those less affluent areas outside the Lower Mainland.

But if the info I received the other day is true, then those who enjoy some of the stronger beers out there on the market, which are usually craft beers, may be digging even deeper into their pockets to purchase those beers and not just in pubs and restaurants. If this recommendation is converted into policy, it will impact all beer, whether bought to be consumed in a licensed establishment or packaged product purchased to be consumed elsewhere,

It means growlers, which have escaped the new minimum drink price, will be impacted and depending on the policy and what it dictates some growler fills will increase.

Keep in mind this is 3rd-hand information and I have not had confirmed by the LCLB or LDB so this may not in fact be true. But if the government keeps caving to health advocates and anti-alcohol lobby groups, who are using scare tactics and meaningless statistics to try to get what they want, which is higher priced booze which is harder to access, I think this change to increase the price of stronger beers will become a reality.

No one knows exactly what is going to happen and when but after last Friday's happy-hour-minimum-price fiasco, I am very afraid of what what may coming down the pipe. The Liberals seem to like to pull these announcements out of a hat and the policies do not seem to be very well thought through in some cases, read booze in supermarkets.

CAMRA Vancouver has posted about beer-ABV issue and let their stance be known, which has shifted significantly sine the drink minimum announcement. Read what they have to say here.

I would recommend consumers get ahead of this. At the bottom of the CAMRA Vancouver post is all the contact information for government and the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch. If you want to let the Liberals know how pissed off you are with how they rolled out happy hour - and be clear that I am not against happy hour but with the minimum drink prices that were imposed - and want to head off any further price increases by letting them know enough is enough by e-mailing, tweeting.

If the beer consumers of BC do stand up and shout loudly, maybe we can make a difference.

One thing is clear, if we do not, we have no chance...

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Will The BC Libs Risk Tax Revenue or Make a FUSS About Serving Sizes?

As most of you reading this will know, last week the BC Liberals announced policy changes that would allow BC licensees to have "happy hours" but the trade off was that there were new minimum drink prices put in place, the highest in Canada by the way, that would see the price of a drink increase for many BC alcohol consumers at their local water hole.

I will not go into how disgusted I am with this move that sees many paying 30% or more for a pint of beer in their local, but you can read my original post here and my open letter to Justice Minister & Attorney General, Suzanne Anton and her parliamentary secretary, John Yap, here.

I will tell you that Anton's assumption that there may be the "occasional case" where a licensee has to raise the price of there drinks is dead wrong, even in  grossly, overpriced Vancouver. I recently found a website that lists all drink specials in Vancouver and, for example, on a Monday there were 261 specials listed and out of those, I stopped counting at 20 those who would be in violation of the new policy.

What I am wondering at this point is if Anton & Co decide to stick with this ill-thought-out and misguided policy, where the minimum drink price is directly tied to the volume of the drink, is Anton going to press the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB) to pay attention to serving sizes and enforce the LCLB policy that all licensees must provide a drink price and serving size list for all alcoholic beverages served in the establishment or is she just going to trust that these licensees, many of whom have been misleading consumers for years, are going to suddenly become honest about how much they are serving?

If she leaves the licensees to regulate themselves, she is leaving the fox in the hen house. Many licensees will manipulate the situation to suit themselves, claiming smaller serving sizes so they can have lower drink specials to draw people in and so as not to alienate their regular customers by raising the price of their pint by 30%. This obviously benefits the consumer but means government will miss out on alcohol tax revenue and I have never seen a government that does not take an interest in maximizing their tax revenue from consumers.

On the flip side of things, some will be claiming larger serving sizes than they are actually providing, as is the widespread practice now, so they can continue to gouge the consumer during their happy hours and now they can blame it on the government's new drink minimum.

The Campaign for Real Ale of BC (CAMRA BC), with their Fess Up to Serving Sizes (FUSS) Campaign, has been pushing for years to have the LCLB enforce this serving size list policy, and ensure the serving size volumes that are listed are accurate, but the LCLB and the BC Liberals have repeatedly said they don't care about serving sizes and that licensees can self-regulate in regards to complying with the serving size list requirement.

In fact, in a recent response to a letter by CAMRA BC suggesting that the serving size list policy be enforced and the government consider legislating that certified, marked glassware (indicating volume of the glass) be required, like in Britain and many European nations, our Justice Minister wrote:
"For public safety reasons a licensee's terms and conditions guide states the maximum serving sizes that an individual or group of people may order at any one time. In addition, the licensee must have a list available showing drinks, drink sizes and prices.  Beyond that, government's focus is not on the array of serving sizes found within the province.
Government's resources and focus lay heavily on public safety issues, such as over-crowding, minors accessing alcohol, public disturbance, illegal activities, and so forth.  It would be a burden for provincial liquor inspectors and police to measure glassware in addition to their other duties.  If a customer is not pleased with the service in an establishment, they have the choice of raising the issue with the licensee or taking their business to other bars or restaurants."
So if the government is not going to concern themselves with the size of drink an establishment serves, other than making sure they do not offer more than the legislated, maximum drink size, how are they going to enforce this new minimum and insure they are getting their fair share via alcohol tax?

Or more to the point, what the Hell is the point of the new policy if they have no way, or no desire to enforce it due to limited resources and limited desire?

I can imagine this conversation happening all over BC:

Liquor Inspector: "That looks like a pint glass and you are selling it for $4. You need to charge $5!"
Licensee: "Why you are mistaking, kind liquor inspector. That glass only holds 16 oz therefore the minimum I can charge is $4."
Liquor Inspector: "OK, I trust you completely. Thank you for clearing that up. Carry on"

Now that government revenue can potentially be compromised, maybe, just maybe, the LCLB liquor inspectors will be directed to take a little more interest in just exactly how much beer is in your glass and the practice of misrepresenting serving sizes will be eliminated.

Time will tell, and who knows what the government is thinking. By the looks of this, they really were misinformed and badly advised as to how this new policy would impact consumers and obviously, they did not think things through.

Also, as an aside, by advising customers that if they don't like getting defrauded and ripped off they should raise the issue with the licensee and/or take their business elsewhere and not bother the Justice Minister's office, is BC's top cop, the person charged with overseeing justice and law enforcement in this province, not condoning dodgy business practices and fraud?

It certainly seems she is not interested in making sure British Columbians get what they paid for but I could be mistaken as to what the Justice Minister condones and what she does not. I can only go by the e-mail I received.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Open Letter to Suzanne Anton & John Yap - Why Is My Happy Hour Beer This Week More Expensive Than My Regularly Priced Beer Last Week?

Dear Ms Anton and Mr Yap

I feel compelled to write you both about the recent announcement regarding the change in BC liquor policy that sets a new minimum drink price for alcohol in BC.

I will warn you that I am more than a little unhappy with this move as it means higher beer prices for myself and many other BC beer consumers. I find the change misguided and out of step with what BC beer consumers really want which is get a pint of beer at a fair price. I also feel the move is a knee-jerk reaction to pressure imposed on the government by special interest groups and a move that was not thought through as to how it will impact all of BC, not just the Lower Mainland and South Vancouver Island.

In short, the change is a step backwards in regards to "modernizing" BC liquor policy. By setting the new minimum price for beer at $0.25 per ounce for beer, BC is now has, as far as my research goes, the highest drink price minimum of all the provinces.

By setting these new price minimums, many British Columbians are going to see the price of their pint of beer increase from those in rural and remote areas to some in grossly, over-priced Vancouver. And I am talking about craft beer which is usually higher priced than the national, mainstream lager prices. Those who chose to consume these traditionally cheaper lagers are going to be hit even harder than craft beer drinkers.

Ms Anton, you were quoted as saying, "There may be the occasional case where consumers see a drink price go up. However, overall, we don’t expect consumers will see much of a difference in terms of drink prices. If anything, they will notice new happy hour drink specials offered by licensees, which weren’t allowed under the previous rules."

In the community I live in, Powell River, prices have no relation to those you find in the bigger urban areas and  I can tell you that by setting the price of a pint of beer at $5, many in my town are going to see the price of their beers rise by over 30%! This is in an area where good paying jobs are not easy to find and where many have a tight entertainment budget. I have traveled around BC enough to know this is going to be true in many other communities. My local, neighourhood pub previously sold a pint of craft beer at $4.50 with the tax included. I now will have to pay $5.75 with tax. And as I mentioned, those drinking the cheaper lagers will see an even bigger hit to their wallet. So great, my local pub can have a happy hour now where they are able to offer beers substantially more expensive this week than they were regularly before the policy change last week.

Your new happy hour minimum is going to create the need for many licensees, not just "the occasional case", like my local, to raise their regular prices and some to raise their existing daily special prices to comply with the law. I believe that you both have either misunderstood, or just ignored, the real wants and needs of the consumers of BC and instead have chosen to listen to special interest groups who have a specific agenda and who have been giving you "expert" advice aimed at getting what they want.

And they have gotten what they want, which is higher alcohol prices for many in BC.

Ms Anton, you were again quoted on the BC Newsroom web page as saying, "(I)mplementing minimum drink prices is an important part of our commitment to protect health and safety, as we move forward on modernizing B.C.’s liquor laws. In setting the minimum price, it was important to us that we listened to both industry and health advocates. We have done that and I believe establishing a $3 per drink minimum achieves a good balance for them, and for British Columbians.”

I do thank you for taking it upon yourself to look after my health and safety, but I, like many reasonable and rational adults in BC, who enjoy an alcoholic beverage responsibly, quite frankly do not require your supervision or imposed limits to protect myself from myself.

You already have laws in place to control and punish those who over-serve, serve intoxicated patrons and who do not comply to the Serving it Right Program, so why not focus on the offenders and not punish the rest who serve and consume alcohol responsibly. These laws, which are already quite restrictive and, if followed by the letter of the law, make it damn near impossible to get more than a drink or two in any licensed establishment especially in a short period of time like a happy hour.

I am thankful that common sense prevails over the letter of the law in most establishments.

Minimum pricing will take care of itself as licensees need to turn a buck on their sales. Yes, some establishments and consumers would take advantage and over-serve and over-consume if you truly offered the option of reasonably-priced drinks during happy hours, but is that not what you liquor inspectors are for?

I am afraid that you may have been hoodwinked by some of the health care and  industry advocates you had advising you and your team during this review who were, for their own reasons, pushing for higher alcohol prices. 

And I am perplexed why you did not have any consumer advocates advising you as to what the average British Columbian alcohol consumer wanted in regards to minimum prices and happy hours.

In regards to these advocates you were listening to, I will use the example Dr Lawrence Loh, Medical Adviser for Fraser Health and one of the health care advocates who has pushed the public safety and health perspective to your government regarding liquor policy changes and whom I had the chance to discuss liquor issues with on CBC Radio's "Early Edition" program. 

I do not want to pick on the doctor, as I am certain he does put a priority in the public health and welfare, but from my conversation with him it was clear to me he really did not have a solid argument for increasing prices and decreasing accessibility in regards to alcohol in BC as he contradicted himself, over-simplified complex issues and made alarmist statements. 

If he is an example of those you listened to, then it worries me to no end that the government is not getting a clear, accurate and full picture from these advocates. 

The good doctor was confronted with the fact that in other jurisdictions with more liberal liquor laws, such as Quebec, some US states and Europe, there do not seem to be any more alcohol-related problems than we have here where we have stricter laws, he stated we have to use caution when comparing BC to other jurisdictions due to the fact that those other jurisdictions may have different views towards alcohol and different "drinking cultures".  

Dr Loh, not two minutes later, was referring to unidentified studies, with vague references to statistics and "a large body of evidence", from "other jurisdictions", like Australia and the US, that proved decreased pricing. associated with happy hours and increased access to alcohol lead to all kinds of social evils and societal problems.

I was confused, as did the health care expert advocate seem to be.

Which is it? Can we look to other jurisdictions to support arguments and to help predict what may happen here, or not? 

I am more than a little concerned that someone who contradicts themselves so blatantly is one of the folks you have been listening to in forming policy that impacts all of BC.

Dr Loh also stated that alcohol was "responsible" for a variety of societal and health problems including  "mental health issues". 

Now as a Registered Psychiatric Nurse, who has worked in some of BC's most acute psychiatric units, I can tell you that this is a gross over-simplification, inaccurate and simply untrue statement in the majority of cases. Alcoholism is a very complicated disease and often there are social, cultural, economic factors at play as well as mental health factors in some cases. 

Yes, some with mental health issues do have alcohol issues but many do not. In fact, many suffering from mental health related problems I have worked with do not drink alcohol at all. And many with alcohol issues have no mental health issues whatsoever.

To say one is responsible for the other is naive or manipulative, depending on the intent. I am not sure where the doctor was coming from with that statement but as a Medical Health Officer, speaking to the public, he should know better than to make an alarmist statement like that.

Again, I am concerned if you are receiving advise and pressure from groups making public statements like this.

I have also seen statistics in the media from addictions experts and health care officials stating that approximately 37% of all people who present at hospital emergency rooms in BC have consumed alcohol with in 12 hours of arriving at hospital.

It is a powerful statistic if you do not apply any sort of critical thinking. Anyone who has taken even a rudimentary statistics course, or who has any common sense, can tell you it is a misleading and empty statistic unless more information is given about the type of study done, where, when and the methodology. It is also important to have the statistics put into context and have a complete picture. It is alarmist and again an attempt at manipulating the public when presented in the way it has been presented.

How many of those who had the drink within 12 hours arrived at hospital for something related to alcohol or as a result of intoxication or intoxicated behaviour?

We don't know because that vital information is not supplied.

How many had a cup of coffee within 12 hours? I am sure more than 37%, so does this mean coffee consumption is directly linked to ER visits? Ridiculous, isn't it? So is the unsupported statement related to alcohol.

And how many people in BC have a drink and do not present at an emergency room within 12 hours? I would be willing to bet in the range of 99% and if so, does that not indicate that drinking alcohol keeps you away from the ER?

Again ridiculous, but using the logic of the 37% statistic, it makes sense.

Oh statistics, they are so slippery and misleading when not all the information about the study and results are supplied.

And where did you get this new minimum price per ounce. It is much higher than say Quebec, Ontario and Alberta where I believe it is set around $0.16 per ounce, putting the minimum pint price at $3.20 pre-tax. Is there some empirically based evidence that these jurisdictions have significantly more alcohol-related woes therefore we need to set our minimum drink price higher?

Oh yeah, I forgot, I am not supposed to compare BC to other jurisdictions, as per the medical experts, or am I? I am confused.

As well, you have to look at the motivation for the "industry advocates" wanting these changes. Of course they want a high minimum drink prices if there is happy hour as it means more guaranteed money in their pockets from customers. It also cuts out the chance of the bigger, greedier chains and and corporations in the urban areas from having the annoyance of some smaller, independent businesses offering up great specials and under cutting them to try to stay afloat and lure business to their establishments.

Do you think ABLE cares about my local pub, or the hundreds of other small-town watering holes? Do you really think the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association care what happens in small-town, rural BC? Do you think they really represent those establishments that cater to the less affluent and less fortunate who want to get out once in a while for a beer to socialize?

If they did, they would have shouted very loudly about the fact that this move may in fact decrease business in some cases.

I hope you get a flood of letters like this from consumers complaining that they are now paying substantially more for their beer. And I hope you listen because you clearly are out of touch with the whole of BC in regards to this issue. BC liquor policy needs to make sense for all of BC. This policy negatively targets the less affluent and those licensed establishment who serve them, those who do not live in more expensive urban settings and businesses who do serve alcohol responsibly and by the letter of the law but do so at a price that is reasonable and attract patrons to their establishment.

Now, I am going to head down to my local for a pint to unwind and I will be having to take a $10 bill with me instead of $5 bill to pay for that beer. Thanks a lot for that. I am sure any others who may be there will be thanking you as well for the 30% increase to the cost of their pint.

Paddy Treavor
Unsatisfied British Columbian