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Less red tape for B.C.’s brewery, distillery and winery owners

Grapes are shown from Venturi & Shulze Vineyards in Cobble Hill, B.C. The province’s brewery, distillery and winery owners will soon face less red tape after another significant update to the province’s liquor laws.

Arnold Lim/The Globe and Mail

British Columbia's brewery, distillery and winery owners will soon face less red tape after another significant update to the province's liquor laws.

Rich Coleman – the Energy and Housing Minister who is also responsible for the province's liquor file – outlined a number of changes in a news release issued Friday.

Among them: Brewery, distillery and winery owners who also have off-site restaurants or pubs will be able to sell their products at the off-site establishments as of March 1. This practice is currently prohibited under "tied house" laws, which bar manufacturers from having any sort of association with establishments that might result in the company's product being favoured – a rule originally put in place to prevent vertical ownership in the market.

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To quell critics' concerns that big companies with deep pockets might exploit this by cornering the market, licensees that enter into such off-site agreements must carry "a variety of products from different suppliers to avoid particular products being favoured," according to the news release.

Among other changes: Breweries and distilleries will be permitted on-site lounges and special event areas; craft distilleries will be permitted mark-up-free direct sales; and rural agency stores will be allowed to "purchase unlimited amounts of beer through their local government liquor stores."

The announcement comes on the heels of a number of incremental reforms to laws Mr. Coleman has called "silly" and "nonsensical." In the past year, policies have been reformed to allow British Columbians to bring their own wine to restaurants, consume an alcoholic beverage while in adult-only movie auditoriums and bring alcohol into B.C. from other provinces tax-free. Most recently, Mr. Coleman announced on Wednesday that catering companies will now be allowed to obtain liquor licences for their clients.

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Based in Vancouver, Andrea Woo is a general assignment reporter with a focus on multimedia journalism. More

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