Vancouver approves booze in grocery stores, stricter club rules
City councillors have approved dozens of amendments to Vancouver's liquor laws that pave the way for booze in grocery stores but also restrict late-night access to Granville Street clubs.
Thirty-two measures were voted on Wednesday following a review of the city's liquor policies, some designed to loosen existing rules while others tightened them.
One recommendation was to allow alcohol sales in grocery stores, though only under the "store-within-a-store" model, meaning there would be separate checkouts for food and liquor.
The measure was adopted more than two years after the provincial government legalized booze in grocery stores.
Council also approved a year-long pilot program, beginning in July, to restrict access to clubs and bars on Granville Street; while establishments will still be able to operate until 3 a.m., patrons won't be able to enter after 2.
The intention is to curb some of the violence on the Granville Strip, which has been rising year after year. According to the city, there was a 4.5 per cent increase in assaults from 2015 to 2016.
But BarWatch Vancouver, an industry group that has had some success banning gang members from establishments in the Granville Entertainment District, argued all it will do is push frustrated drinkers to different areas of the city.
"They're not going to go home," chair Curtis Robinson said. "There is absolutely going to be a migration of people to other areas – Davie Street, Yaletown and Gastown – without question."
The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association also questioned whether the law will put increased pressure on bouncers and front-line staff, particularly because it’s being implemented so suddenly.
Similar laws introduced in Sydney, Australia in 2015 were met with widespread protests, but rates of violence have since substantially reduced. Assaults in the city decreased by about 30 per cent.
Some have suggested more policing is the answer to violence in the Granville Entertainment District, but that would come at a steep cost. The Vancouver Police Department squad dedicated to maintaining order in the bustling area already costs $1.1 million a year.
Some of the other amendments approved Wednesday include allowing liquor sales in arts and culture venues, and a requirement for bars to display drink sizes and strengths.
Council also voted to continue the moratorium on new liquor-primary establishments in the Downtown Eastside, and to ban additional liquor stores in the neighbourhood.
To read the City of Vancouver's full Liquor Policy Review, click here.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Nafeesa Karim