BC Liquor Licensing Branch updates Penalty Schedule

On May 22, 2019 the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch issued its 2nd Policy Directive of 2019. After years of frequent, and in many cases dramatic, changes to Branch policy, 2019 has been off to a slow start.

Changes to the Penalty Schedule

The Penalty Schedule (being Schedule 2 to the Liquor Control and Licensing Regulation) has been the subject of ongoing discussion and revision at the Branch since the halcyon days of the Yap Report.

In more recent history the first major change to the Penalty Schedule was the introduction of the “choice of penalty” component. This was set out back in Policy Directive No. 16 – 19. Previously the nature of the penalty issued following a contravention (licence suspension vs. penalty) was determined by the general manager. Since January, 2017 licensees on their first contravention who sign a waiver (read “plead guilty”) have generally been permitted to choose the nature of the penalty they receive.

Policy No. 19 – 02, effective June 5, 2019 tweaks the Penalty Schedule once again. The amended schedule raises some fines and lowers others and also aligns the penalty structures of the liquor and cannabis penalty schedules. Significantly, an eligible licensee may now elect to pay a monetary penalty for first, second, and subsequent contraventions.

But there is a catch.

Previously if a licensee committed the same contravention a second (or subsequent) time in a 12-month period, the second contravention required the Branch to award a steeper penalty. Under the new policy that window of time has doubled two 24-months (meaning more licensees are likely to be penalized for “second” contraventions).

The Branch says the change is intended to encourage compliance and deter repeat contraventions. Alcohol & Advocacy says it’s all the more reason for licensees to ensure that when faced with enforcement action they are properly represented by counsel.

If your establishment has received a contravention notice, or a notice of enforcement action, 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.