2016 BC Liquor Control and Licensing Act Contravention Statistics

From time-to-time the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch releases compliance and enforcement statistics. The most recent statistics on licensee contraventions of BC’s liquor laws are for the period between January and October, 2016. Alcohol & Advocacy has previously written on this issue for the period between January, 2010 and  December, 2013, and that article can be found here.

The Branch has reported that in the first 10 months of 2016 provincial liquor inspectors identified over 500 contraventions.  Unsurprisingly, the most common contravention was the sale of liquor to a minor (86 counts). More notable was the disclosure that contravening a term or condition of a liquor licence was a close second (81 counts).

While some of the terms and conditions applicable to a liquor licence are set out on the face of the licence itself, the vast majority of them are contained in the handbook published by the Branch for each class of liquor licence and permit. The terms and conditions set out in the handbook must be followed at all times by the licensee, in addition to the laws contained in the Liquor Control and Licensing Act and the Regulation.

Examples of breaches of the terms and conditions of a licence that can cost an establishment a fine from $1,000 – $3,000 or a 1-3 day licence suspension (for a first offence) include:

  • “Bottle Service” – Bottle service (as seen on TV) is not permitted in British Columbia. Pitchers of beer and bottles of wine may be served to two or more customers but the service of whole bottles of distilled liquor is strictly prohibited.
  • Mandatory Display Materials – As a licensee you are required to display at least one social responsibility poster or tent card in a prominent location where you sell or serve liquor in your establishment.
  • Drinking Games – Contests and activities that involve the consumption of liquor (beer pong, flip cup, etc.) are strictly prohibited in licensed establishments.
  • Contests and Liquor as a Prize – Your bar or restaurant may host contests and games of skill however you cannot offer liquor as a prize and cannot give away tokens or vouchers redeemable for liquor. Importantly, patrons must be able to enter any contest without making a purchase or ordering a drink.
  • “Free Drinks” – While you may occasionally treat a customer to a free drink (such as on their birthday or a glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve) establishments cannot provide multiple free drinks to customers. You cannot provide free drinks as part of an ongoing business practice or offer complimentary drinks if a patron reserves a VIP table or otherwise makes a special reservation. Licensed establishments must adhere to minimum drink prices in British Columbia.

As more and more licensees use social media to promote their tasting rooms and events, and manufacturers get more comfortable selling their products online, it remains important for owners and managers to keep in mind that a contravention does not have to be linked to your physical establishment. That means your establishment’s web presence (including Twitter, Facebook and Instagam) is subject to inspection and accountable to British Columbia’s liquor law regime.

If your establishment is currently facing enforcement action, or is being investigated by the Branch for a contravention of the Act or terms and conditions, contact Dan Coles at Owen Bird.

*Alcohol & Advocacy publishes articles for information purposes only. They are not a substitute for legal advice, and persons requiring such advice should consult legal counsel.


Dan Coles
Retired bartender. Young lawyer. From the East, living in the West. Interested in British Columbia's producers and purveyors of wine, beer and spirits.