There have been two small but very important changes to liquor laws recently. Hopefully they are the harbingers of a more complete overhaul of the liquor distribution system in BC which is positively antediluvian by global standards and riddled with inane and inequitable rules that collectively do not serve the industry’s or the consumers’  best interests.

Bill C-311

First off, Bill C-311 passed into law on June 28th. This Federal Act removed an 84 year old prohibition on the transportation of wine across Provincial borders. Effectively the Federal Government stepped out of the alcohol control business and pushed it firmly into the hands of the individual Provinces and Territories. It is now up to each Province to set their own rules on how a consumer can import wine for personal consumption from outside their Province of residence. After some confusion and double-tracking the BC Government came up with a new policy that places no limits on what you can buy and import into BC as long as it is 100% Canadian wine. It is still illegal to purchase, and bring to BC, beer, imported wine, spirits etc. The net effect is that you are legally able to purchase directly from wineries in other parts of Canada and have the product shipped to your home.

The movement to “liberate” Canadian wine for Interprovincial shipping has been loud and vocal on social media, especially from BC. If you want to follow the discussions just search #freemygrapes on twitter. Sadly, while BC has done the right thing for the Canadian Wine Industry, the two biggest wine-consuming Provinces have not yet reciprocated so the BC wine industry is locked out of direct markets in Ontario and Quebec.

Bring Your Own Wine (#BYOW, #BYOB)

Of possibly far more importance to most consumers is the announcement last week by the BC Government that it is now legal for restaurants to allow you to bring your own wine (and pay corkage if applicable) to a BC restaurant. This policy again only applies to wine and not beer, spirits etc. It must be stressed that it is entirely at the restaurant’s discretion on whether they allow #BYOW and how much corkage they charge. In Vancouver, we are seeing corkage rates ranging from $10/bottle to $65 (Barefoot Bistro in Whistler), but the initial average seems to be settling out between $15 and $25 per bottle where the restaurant actually permits you to #BYOW. There is a good blog post by Jake Skakun of L’Abbatoir on his policy and thoughts here.

Note that #BYOW is only legal in restaurants licensed for liquor in the first place. If the restaurant does not have a liquor license then it is still illegal to bring your own wine.

I  canvassed our local restaurants the day after the policy change to see how they were going to react but none of them were actually aware of the new rules at the time. I have asked them to let me know if they’ll support #BYOW and what rules and corkage they will apply. I’ll  post once I hear from them – but if you like the concept it would be worth letting them know your views directly.

If you are thinking about taking your own wine to any restaurant it is always better to check with them ahead of time on what they allow and how much they charge.