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Liquor policy changes will allow happy hours in B.C. and encourage patrons to enjoy mid-day alcoholic beverages.

Lyle Stafford/The Globe and Mail

The B.C. government has officially green-lighted happy hours in the province, just in time for summer.

That means that, as of Friday, restaurants and pubs can now discount their alcohol prices midday – bringing B.C. into line with every other province in Canada.

The minimum pricing per ounce is 25 cents for draft or packaged beer, cider and coolers and 60 cents for wine and fortified wine, including sake. This works out to $3 for a 12-ounce sleeve of beer or five-ounce glass of wine, $5 for a 20-ounce pint of beer and $5.40 for a nine-ounce glass of wine.  Liqueurs and spirits are $3 per 1.5 ounce.

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Food-primary establishments must continue to offer a full menu but patrons are not obligated to order food with their alcoholic beverages.

Suzanne Anton, B.C.'s Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, said in a statement the minimum drink prices reflect a "commitment to protect health and safety as we move forward on modernizing B.C.'s liquor laws."

Ian Tostenson, president of B.C.'s Restaurant and Foodservices Association, said he welcomes change to the food and beverage industry and will create revenue opportunities during lulls in the day.

"Additional liquor policy updates, like allowing restaurants to serve guests a drink without the complicated rules on food consumption, will also reduce confusion for consumers and cut red tape for businesses," he said in a statement.

But for some establishments, the new minimum pricing strategy could actually increase prices. At 25 cents per ounce of beer, a standard 60-ounce pitcher would have to be at least $15 – far more than the current price at some restaurants, legions and dive bars.

According to a policy directive also released on Friday, the minimum price levels "apply provincially, and supersede any local government bylaws that may already be in place."

Premier Christy Clark announced the policy change in December, calling B.C.'s liquor laws "antiquated" and saying consumers want choice and convenience. The Government Liquor Act was passed in 1921, after the province's four-year prohibition.

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Other changes introduced Friday mean: customers can now carry an alcoholic beverage from one licensed area of an establishment to another, such as from a restaurant to an adjoining lounge; licensees can now transfer small amounts of liquor between similar types of establishments, such as from a pub to a restaurant; and hosts of family Special Occasion Licence events can now serve U-Brew and U-Vin beer, wine and cider.

New regulations released Friday by the B.C. government stipulate the least amount bar patrons can be charged for alcohol during happy hours. Full story here, or click here for a larger graphic.

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