B.C. to let festival, stadium goers roam with free-range drinking

The Salmon Arm Roots & Blues Festival is one of B.C.
The Salmon Arm Roots & Blues Festival is one of B.C.'s successful events with few drinking-related problems.
— image credit: Tom Fletcher/Black Press

The B.C. government is moving ahead with promised liquor reforms, promising free-range drinking at music festivals, stadiums and hotels as well as eventual sales in grocery stores.

Attorney General Suzanne Anton announced Friday that the government is accepting all 73 recommendations from Richmond-Steveston MLA John Yap, who led a consultation last year on updating archaic liquor laws.

New rules include eliminating the requirement for fencing around music festival beer gardens, licensing the entire site via a simpler application.

"This will allow families to stay together at events, reduce costs for festival organizers and make the festival experience that much better for all fans of live music," said Bob D'Eith, executive director of Music B.C.

Along with a dip in the Canadian dollar, the move should be good news for the Squamish Valley Music Festival in early August. Organizers have announced a high-profile lineup including Detroit rapper Eminem, Quebec's Arcade Fire and Hawaiian singer-songwriter Bruno Mars.

The normally laid-back Salmon Arm Roots & Blues Festival had an incident in 2009, when reggae-rock band Bedouin Soundclash invited patrons of the packed beer garden to break down the fence and join the main throng in front of the stage for their final Saturday night set. The invitation was quickly accepted, with damage restricted mainly to the snow fencing.

The Merritt Mountain Music Festival ran for nearly 20 years, becoming notorious for uninhibited all-night parties featuring outdoor couches and hot tubs. It was cancelled in 2010 after efforts to tone it down resulted in poor attendance. It has since been replaced by the Bass Coast Music and Art Festival, a dry event that relocated from Squamish last year.

The country crowd now has the option of the Rockin' River Music Fest in Mission Aug. 7-9, with this year's lineup including Rascal Flatts and Terri Clark.

In sports stadiums, hard liquor sales will no longer be restricted to premium seating and private boxes.

Anton warned that some recommendations, such as liquor sales in grocery stores, will take time to implement, and legislation is needed for some changes.

The B.C. Government Employees' Union, representing government liquor store workers, called for the new "store within a store" expansion to be publicly owned and staffed by its members.


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