Minimum Wage for Liquor Servers

The minimum wage in British Columbia is set out in the Regulation of the Employment Standards Act. Since May 1, 2011 there has been a separate minimum wage for employees who serve liquor in British Columbia. The general minimum wage is currently $10.25 per hour, whereas the minimum wage for those who serve liquor is $9.00 per hour.

Though the lower minimum wage for liquor servers provides bar and restaurant owners with a slight break in their payroll costs, they must pay close attention to the language of the Regulation to ensure they stay on the right side of the law and avoid a potentially costly complaint to the Employment Standards Branch.

To be certain, the “liquor server” rate only applies to employees whose employment duties include serving liquor directly to customers and guests in premises for which a liquor licence has been issued under the Act. The “liquor server” rate does not to apply to employees who serve food and drink, but not liquor. The lower rate also does not apply to employees who work on the floor of a bar but do not serve liquor such as bussers and hosts

The definition of “liquor server” in the Regulation has the potential to create some interesting outcomes:

  • Which rate of minimum wage would apply to a bartender who mixes and pours drinks, but doesn’t serve them directly to customers?
  • Is management entitled to change a server’s hourly wage depending on whether he or she works a breakfast shift (where liquor is not likely to be sold) versus a dinner shift?

While effective payroll management is an important aspect of all successful businesses, more important still is taking the time to understand the Employment Standards Act and how it applies to your licensed establishment.

*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.

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