Vancouver has voted to change its liquor licensing rules to match what the province allowed seven years ago, but businesses in Victoria haven’t taken advantage of it.
Vancouver councillors voted to remove some bylaws that restricted what businesses can apply for a liquor license. Businesses like spas, barber shops, and bookstores in some areas of Vancouver can now apply for a liquor license.
“I’m very happy for Vancouver, great news for them, but even more happy to say that Victoria did this a number of years ago,” said Victoria Coun. Matt Dell.
The B.C. government loosened the rules, allowing all businesses to apply for a liquor license unless they operate out of a vehicle or target minors. Since the enactment, Victoria hasn’t prevented certain business sectors from applying. It just seems that they aren’t.
“Not a lot of have actually applied under the city rules, so I guess the demand just isn’t quite there,” said Dell.
Little uptake in Victoria
According to data from The B.C. Liquor and Cannabis Branch, there are 401 businesses with a liquor license in the city of Victoria, but only three of those aren’t traditional businesses to have it. Those three businesses are not considered to be in the hospitality or tourism sector.
One industry expert says the reason non-traditional businesses are not applying for one is due to logistics and culture.
“Let’s say you have a barber shop and you would love to have beer, wine, and spirits available, so that’s got to turn over,” said Rod Philips, CEO of Liquify Solutions.
“Now you need to have someone that has to go down to a local government liquor store to pick up that product for you, has to pay in cash ahead of time, and it’s got to turn over.”
Philips says there also isn’t a need for the public to have alcohol available in certain settings.
HAVN spa owner Nicholas Joel Van Buren welcomes the change and the option for businesses to apply for the license, though he says it’s not an option he’s interested for his spa.
“We look at ourselves as a healthy gathering space, there’s a lot of places where you can gather around alcohol, you can gather around food, this is a spot where you can gather around sauna and cold immersion and relaxation,” he said.
Ontario recently changed its liquor laws, paving the way for sales inside convenience stores, big box stores, and some gas stations starting in 2026.
B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth says he isn’t considering changing the rules to follow what Ontario has done.
“We have considered the route Ontario has taken and believe the current system we have in place is successful,” he said.