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B.C. Liquor Law Changes Could Destroy All-Ages Concert Scene

On Jan. 15, the British Columbia government will change its liquor laws which will seriously affect all-ages concerts in the province.

According to a post on the Tumblr site Safeamp, the government is changing its liquor policies, meaning all-ages shows held in venues with permanent "liquor-primary" licenses are being affected.

In the past such establishments and venues wanting to host all-ages shows could temporarily "delicense" to enable all-ages concerts to go on. But Karen Ayers, the deputy minister and general manger of the province's Liquor Control and Licensing Branch, said "delicense" requests have increased in recent years from 511 applications back in 2007 to as many as 740 last year.

The new law will allow these establishments to apply for a temporary delicense approximately five times a year and only if the event "is not reflective of the primary business of the establishment" (i.e. an exercise class) and those going are of legal age. So if you hold concerts at the establishment, all-ages shows will essentially not be permitted. As well, participating performers would have to be over 19 years old. All-ages events and concerts could still go on before the club's licensed hours are in effect, such as the afternoon at a bar or club.

Some venues such as Vancouver's Commodore Ballroom won't be affected as it has "food-primary" and "liquor-primary" portions while "live-event theatres" such as the city's Vogue and Rio theatres are also allowed to carry on without any obstacles.

The changes come after the LCLB received complaints from law enforcement, high schools and parents regarding minors entering nightclubs, with Ayers adding that "some minors/attendees are consuming alcohol and other substances" before entering the venue or taking in their own alcohol with them.

Provincial NDP member Spencer Chandra Herbert compares the changes to "using a sledgehammer to swat a fly," adding that minors could end up drinking on the street and entering a movie theatre as well. "This could happen at a sports game...," Herbert told The Globe And Mail. "You deal with that as an issue with those people themselves; you don't shut down the whole thing."

Global BC reports that some venues, including Vancouver's Rickshaw, are considering appealing the new rule.

"We'll try to reinforce that all-ages shows have never been a problem at the Rickshaw, especially since we have received the liquor primary license (in 2011)," the venue's general manager Mo Tarmohamed said. "We don't really see the reasoning behind the new directive."

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