In British Columbia liquor licences are issued by the provincial Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB), and licensed establishments in Whistler operate with either a food primary or a liquor primary licence.
The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) has a role in many liquor licence applications, because the LCLB is required to request comment from local government on licensing decisions that may have an impact on the community
Liquor primary licences have traditionally been issued only to businesses such as pubs, lounges, bars, nightclubs and event driven conference or cultural centres. These businesses are focussed on hospitality, entertainment or beverage service and there is minimal requirement to have food available. Liquor cannot be offered complimentary to customers – it must be sold.
Food primary licences have traditionally been issued only to businesses such as restaurants and cafés. A food primary licensed business must have a fully operating kitchen, including a dedicated service area with tables and chairs for all patrons. Food must be available anytime liquor is sold.
Whistler has more than one hundred licensed food and beverage establishments.
A policy permitting non-traditional businesses to apply for a liquor licence came into effect in January 2017. The new provincial policy states, “Any business, except those that operate in a motor vehicle or are primarily directed at minors, can now apply for a liquor primary licence.” The provincial policy further states that, “… any business, even businesses without a primary focus on food service, can now apply for a food primary licence. For example, a bookstore may apply for a food primary licence and have a restaurant space within the bookstore.”
A business with a liquor primary licence has a higher potential for negative community impacts than a business with a food primary licence
With hundreds of Whistler businesses now eligible to apply for a food primary or liquor primary licence, municipal staff have identified the need for guidelines regarding the types of businesses which might be considered for a licence and for municipal regulations to manage such licences.