View Royal pub plans to market happy hour

Pub patrons have a lot more options with new provincial regulations in effect

Courtney Price

Happy pub patrons might get a little happier.

Revisions to B.C. liquor laws now allow promotional alcohol pricing including happy hour, let minors accompany adults into pubs, and allow alcohol sales in grocery stores and farmers markets.

Six Mile Pub owner David Wong said the changes are a welcome relaxation of the regulations that will help his small business attract more customers, especially during traditionally quieter times.

“I think it offers us an opportunity to use it as a tool to build business during slower periods of the day. Every restaurant has a mid-afternoon and late evening where there is a bit of a lull,” he said. “Rather than have staff standing around let’s keep everyone busy. It gives us flexibility and lower prices during slower times and offers a deal for the consumer. It is a win-win for all.”

The changes do have what some may see as disadvantages however, with the traditionally cost-effective pitchers of beer now subject to a 25-cent-per-ounce minimum charge. That effectively raises the price of pitchers on average instead of reducing them.

That, Wong said, would just even the playing field between establishments that lower their prices too much and those that do not. He envisions happy hour as an opportunity to offer cheaper drinks, but plans to only showcase local products during the 3 to 6 p.m. time slot, as a way to introduce his customers to new options.

“It is not an opportunity to say ‘let’s have a happy hour, have it crazy cheap and drink till you pass out. That is not the opportunity I see.”

While the idea of happy hour is attracting a lot of interest from some of his clients, he said the rule change he is most excited about doesn’t have anything to do with liquor prices at all. It is the rule that will now allow minors into into his pub.

“We are still careful to preserve the whole pub concept, because a lot of adults want to go away from their kids,” he said. “I also don’t want kids where people are talking loud or swearing.

Wong has renovated an area in the pub to provide an option for families to go to be separated from adult conversation.

Wong said the View Royal neighbourhood his pub is located in once was popular with young couples getting into their first homes. Today he sees swing sets and tricycles in the back yards. He hopes to get those clients back while balancing the atmosphere his customers have come to enjoy for years.

“It is a huge positive into this community. A lot of the people we serve here have always wanted to bring their kids, especially during Sunday brunch and we haven’t been able to serve them,” Wong said.

“We have always wanted to serve the junior members of the community and we are happy to be able to do that.”

The B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association issued a statement reminding its members that the new rules also allow customers to carry a drink from a lounge to an adjoining restaurant. Licensees are also allowed to transfer small amounts of stock from one to the other if they run out of a particular product.

In a policy directive to industry associations, local governments and police agencies, the government’s Liquor Control and Licensing Branch says the lower price may be applied selectively for “ladies night” specials or “team night” for players in uniform.

Among the 73 endorsed changes to B.C.’s liquor laws, 17 have now been implemented with more potentially on the way.

– with files from Tom Fletcher

alim@vicnews.com

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