While there’s interest on the ground amongst businesses now eligible to sell liquor to their customers, there’s no way of knowing just how many will apply to do so, according to Bill Anderson, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction.
Changes in B.C.’s liquor laws came into effect on Monday, including one allowing businesses like barber shops, salons, art galleries and bookstores to apply for licenses to serve their customers alcoholic beverages.
“It’s about giving people the option to apply for these licenses and expand what they can offer their customers,” said Anderson. “But we recognize that no two businesses are exactly alike so it’s really going to be up to them to decide if it’s right for their operation.”
Matthew Conrad, owner of Victory Barber and Brand, is happy about the changes and was front and centre at the province’s announcement in November of last year, going so far as to host the government’s news conference where the initiative was announced.
“It’s a great chance to modernize our services and provide our customers with that enhanced environment,” said Conrad at the time.
Other barber shops are not so enthusiastic.
George Doulakis, manager of Jimmy’s Barber Shop, doesn’t see the benefit of serving alcohol to his customers.
“It’s not going to happen here, that’s for sure,” said Doulakis. “We have enough trouble with drunks wandering in off the street, we don’t want to add to the problem. Anyway, we have children who come in here with their parents…why would we serve drinks in a place with kids?”
The nature of the clientele was also a concern for Status Barber Shop owner, Maurice St. Rose, who expressed his support of the legislation on general principles, but said the large number of children in his customer base didn’t really allow for a liquor license application.
A similar split opinion was found to exist amongst book store operators.
Barb Merrick, the manager at Russell Books, expressed excitement at the prospect of obtaining a liquor license.
“We host a lot of events here — author readings, and joint efforts with local brewers and restaurateurs — and this is a great, positive change for us . . . a really great opportunity,” said Merrick.
Staff at Bolen Books were less sold on the concept.
“It’s an intriguing idea, but it would be a big project to undertake and I’m not sure it’s for us,” said manager Colin Holt.
A spokesperson for Victoria’s iconic Munro’s Books was even less enthusiastic about the idea of serving beverages in the store, noting that liquid and books do not mix well.
Art galleries were generally more supportive of the concept. At the Alcheringa Gallery, curator Darren Pottie explained how the gallery has already been in the habit of obtaining occasional licenses to allow for the service of alcohol for receptions and private events.
“This will make it a lot easier, that’s certain,” said Pottie.
At the Robert Bateman Centre, gallery and exhibits manager Erin Henshaw initially expressed interest in the concept and, while admitting that the gallery had not yet researched the matter, said they would definitely take advantage of the new laws.
At the Ministry of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction, Anderson is neither surprised or concerned with the mixed reaction to the new laws.