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Indie musicians get political in push for B.C. liquor law overhaul

A liquor store adjacent to the Waldorf Hotel seen here in East Vancouver, British Columbia, Thursday, October 27, 2011.

Rafal Gerszak for the Globe and Mail/rafal gerszak The Globe and Mail

Members of B.C.'s independent music community have launched a petition calling for the provincial government – and all candidates in next month's election – to commit to changes in the province's liquor laws.

The Safe Amplification Site Society, a non-profit society that supports all-ages spaces for music and arts in Vancouver, is leading the petition, which has garnered 1,200 signatures since it was launched last week.

The petitioners are hoping parties and individual candidates will take a stand on proposed changes to British Columbia's liquor laws after a number of incremental steps over the past year.

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The petition is calling, primarily, for three changes: to create a new liquor licence that allows minors into live music venues where alcohol is served to those 19 and older; to overhaul special-occasion licences so that licence categories are based on crowd size rather than public versus private gatherings; and to repeal a recent decision that disallowed liquor-primary venues from temporarily de-licensing for all-ages events.

"[B.C.'s liquor laws] are more than just outdated," the petition states, in part.

"Our liquor laws are ageist, stifling and dysfunctional. In particular, they make it very difficult for music venues to admit people under the age of 19 – a demographic that includes about 20 per cent of British Columbians."

Recent changes to the province's liquor laws include allowing catering companies to obtain liquor licences for their clients; allowing alcohol to be brought into B.C. from other provinces tax free; and permitting patrons to bring their own wine to a restaurant, for a corkage fee.

However, a B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch policy directive that came into effect in January disallowing liquor-primary establishments to temporarily de-license for alternate use – such as an all-ages concert at a usually 19-plus venue – was seen as a step backward.

Karen Ayers, LCLB assistant deputy minister and general manager, said the move was in response to a number of complaints about the appropriateness of allowing minors into nightclubs, and that many of those minors were entering the venues intoxicated.

Spencer Chandra Herbert, the NDP arts and tourism critic, likened the move to "using a sledgehammer to swat a fly."

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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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