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More bars per block and booze at barbershops? Vancouver to consider loosening liquor regulations


Vancouver could be loosening liquor regulations by lifting the limits on where new bars, pubs, and night clubs can open in the city and by broadening the types of businesses allowed to serve booze.

A report coming to council Wednesday recommends a host of regulatory changes that are meant to "remove regulatory barriers and create opportunities for new and existing businesses."

Among the recommendations is removing distancing requirements for so-called "liquor primary" businesses.

"The limit serves a public health goal of moderating access to liquor. At the same time, it creates challenges for existing businesses seeking to expand, and for prospective businesses seeking suitable locations," the report says.

Under the current regime – which has been in place since 2005 – bars and nightclubs must be between 50 metres and 1 kilometre away from one another, depending on the size of the business and the neighbourhood.

The only limit on location that is being proposed would put a capacity limit of 200 on bars and clubs next to residential areas.

Lifting a moratorium on new liquor primary businesses opening up in the Granville Entertainment District is also recommended.

"In the (district), businesses can participate in and activate the transition to a vibrant, welcoming, day and nighttime entertainment destination," the report says, noting a planning process to "revitalize" the area is already underway.

"Removing the moratorium will open the door to new operators who may bring fresh ideas aligned with the new vision for Granville Street. The lack of distance requirements will give businesses flexibility to innovate and bring forward a wide range of offerings."

Allowing businesses like spas, barbershops, and retail stores to apply for liquor licences is another proposed change.

Applications for new licences and changes to existing licences, the report says, will still be reviewed on a case-by-case basis – however, the report says another change being proposed will decrease processing time by eliminating the need for city council to greenlight recommendations for approval.

The report says that there are 168 pubs and nightclubs currently licensed to operate in the city, down from 179 in 2006.


The staff report notes that the changes are "strongly" opposed by Vancouver Coastal Health.

Dr. Mark Lysyshyn, deputy chief medical health officer, provided feedback saying the health authority opposes the changes because they could increase the availability of alcohol, leading to increased consumption and risk.

"The regulation of the physical availability of alcohol is widely recognized as one of the most effective methods to reduce consumption," he wrote in a letter attached as an appendix to the report.

"Considering the known harm caused by alcohol consumption and the strong relationship between alcohol outlet density and harm, I strongly urge the city to maintain the current rules," he continued.

The staff report acknowledges that the changes could have an impact on public health, but also says the scale can’t be predicted.

"The proposed change poses some risk to public health by removing limits on density of establishments, including near residential areas. Staff anticipate that if the policy is approved some new liquor establishments will open. How many and where is unknown," the report says.

"It is not clear that removing distance requirements will result in a significant number of new pubs and nightclubs in these areas," it continues.

Public safety is another concern raised in the report, which says street disorder, sexualized violence and public intoxication have historically been problems on the Granville Strip.

The Vancouver Police Department does not oppose the changes, but did say in its feedback that "our experience has shown that we need to proceed with caution when increasing the availability and access to alcohol in entertainment areas and where large crowds congregate." Top Stories

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