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How Did BC Screw up Happy Hour?

The province didn't 'modernize' liquor laws; they 'Liberalized' them.

By Bill Tieleman 24 Jun 2014 | TheTyee.ca

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist whose clients include unions and businesses in the resource and public sector. Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. E-mail him at weststar@telus.net or visit his blog.

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Happy Hour isn't in B.C. Drinker photo via Shutterstock.

"Two-fifty for a hi-ball / And a buck and a half for a beer / Happy hour, happy hour / Happy hour is here." -- The Tragically Hip, "Little Bones"

How on Earth could anyone screw up something as simple as happy hour?

Welcome to British Columbia, where the BC Liberal government isn't on the planet when it comes to being clear on the concept of "happy hour," where bars, pubs and restaurants can offer thirsty patrons a short break from overpriced beer, wine and cocktails.

B.C. Attorney-General Suzanne Anton announced the "modernizing" of liquor laws Friday, and when it comes to happy hour, in many cases prices will actually be higher, not lower, than before -- up to $5 more for a 60-ounce pitcher of beer and $2 more for a pint!

If the BC Liberals can't even figure out how to introduce happy hour without making us pay more, not less, for a simple drink, it's scary to think how they will negotiate a critical taxation regime for liquefied natural gas that's worth billions of dollars.

Getting LNG right is a little tougher than happy hour!

Cry into your pricier beer

The province set minimum drink charges for happy hour above current prices, causing drinkers to immediately cry into their more expensive beers.

"I'm fundamentally disappointed in the government for this," Adam Chatburn, the president of Vancouver's Campaign for Real Ale Society chapter, told media.

"We were really hoping they would take a much more adult and sensible approach to minimum pricing for happy hour," said Chatburn. "Unfortunately, they've decided to jack the price right up."

Yes, that's right: the "BC Liberalized" happy hour means more expense booze. You can't make this stuff up.

As Steve Bauer of Vancouver's Pumpjack Pub explained it: "The 60 ounce jugs are going up to a minimum of $15, tax out, which takes you to over $17 dollars for a jug. A lot of people on this street aside from ourselves and restaurants, you'll [have seen] them for $11, $12. So that's all gone!"

Bauer said the pub's 14-year tradition of selling a 17-ounce pint of beer on Sunday afternoons for $2.90 will have to change, with the price jumping to $4.90 due to the new rules.

That means the minimum price for an ounce of liquor is $2 and $3 for a 12-ounce beer or five-ounce wine.

Give us a break

Sadly, liquor is one area where the BC Liberals have made some positive changes, drawing rare praise from this column for allowing wine corkage in restaurants.

Saturday's announcement that B.C.-produced wine, beer, cider and spirits can now be sold in farmers' markets, for example, is very welcome and overdue, as is letting children into pubs with parents till 10 p.m. for "family friendly dining."

No one wants dirt-cheap drinks or more drunk drivers on our roads, but most of the civilized world, including Seattle, seems able to do happy hour appropriately.

So can we just get a little break on an after-work drink? Or is that too much to ask?

Join my new Facebook page Fix BC Happy Hour -- so we can truly get happy!  [Tyee]

Read more: Food, BC Politics

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