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Liquor-serving establishments

If you want to have a business in the City of Vancouver that sells or serves alcoholic drinks, you must have a liquor licence.

The Province

The Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB) issues licences in BC for making and selling liquor and supervises the service of liquor in licensed establishments. The branch alone is responsible for deciding if you will receive a licence.

The City

The City of Vancouver also plays a significant role. The LCLB is required to consider specific community needs in deciding whether to issue or change a liquor licence. For some applications, such as new liquor primary establishments, this includes asking the city to provide a resolution that considers the following:

  • Establishment's location
  • Person-capacity of the proposed establishment
  • Operating hours requested
  • Views of local residents and businesses
  • Proximity to other social or recreational facilities
  • Number of other licensed establishments in the area
  • Potential traffic, noise, and parking problems
  • Population density and trends
  • Impact on the community if the application is approved

On June 14, 2017, Council adopted policy changes affecting businesses that serve and retail liquor.

Staff set three goals for the City Liquor Policy:

  1. Protect health, safety, and community livability
  2. Foster creativity, community connection, and local economy
  3. Ensure regulatory framework is effective and efficient

Read the staff report  (345 KB) and Council meeting minutes (344 KB) for full details.

On May 2, 2018, Council approved further policy and bylaw amendments. Read the the staff report  (1.4 MB) for details.  

Select your business type below to learn how the changes may affect your business.

General

Liquor primary patio seats 

The twenty percent limit on Liquor Primary (LP) patio seats is no longer in effect, if a Good Neighbour Agreement is signed and community impacts such as noise are managed.

If you have a patio and would like to increase the number of seats, apply to the City for an amendment to your development permit, and to the Province for an amendment to your liquor licence. Contact the Development and Building Services Centre at 604-873-7611 for further information.

Downtown Eastside (DTES)

In the DTES, establishments with existing patios may increase the number of seats on their patios by moving them from inside to the patio with no net gain in liquor seats. 

Granville Entertainment District (GED)

In the GED, establishments may apply to build a patio; it must meet citywide patio requirements and there must be no net gain in liquor seats.

Applications will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. 

Contact the City Licensing Office at 604-871-6461 for further details about patios in the DTES and GED.

Non-alcoholic dance halls

Effective May 31, alcohol-free dance halls will be permitted to operate throughout downtown Vancouver on zoning-compliant sites. These alcohol-free dance halls will help provide musicians and other live performers with more rehearsal and performance spaces. Applications will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. 

Hours extensions

We will issue up to six approvals for LP hours extensions at one time. Contact the City Licensing Office at 604-871-6461 for more information.

Offer standard size drinks

Establishments are encouraged to offer standard size drinks. Learn more about standard size drinks at Standard Drink  and Rethink Your Drinking

Low strength drink options

Establishments are encouraged to offer low strength drink options, and to provide free soft drinks to designated drivers.

General: Effective May 2018

The following policy changes are in effect May 2, 2018. 

Display size and strength of drinks

To help patrons be better informed when making drink choices, establishments that serve alcoholic beverages are required to publish drink sizes and strengths.

This can either be the standard drink equivalent or percentage of alcohol by volume (ABV), and must include all drinks available at the establishment. See the staff report, page 9  (1.4 MB) for more details.

More details for displaying drink size and strength will be provided to businesses later this spring. 

Washroom requirement for seasonal patio seating

We have developed guidelines to use in considering applications to exempt up to 12 patio seats from the washroom provision standard. It is anticipated that guidelines will be ready in spring 2018. Guidelines will be posted to this website once they are complete.

Contact the Development and Building Services Centre at 604-873-7611 for further details. 

Downtown East Side (DTES)

Liquor Primary Licences

The moratorium on new liquor primary licences, seat relocations and seat expansions remains in effec. New liquor primary licences will be considered for live performance venues; liquor service will be restricted to pre-booked events. 

Liquor stores

Existing liquor stores may relocate within the area provided that only one store is in Strathcona and one combined store is in the sub-areas of Gastown, Victory Square, Industrial, Chinatown, and Thornton Park.

Granville Entertainment District (GED)

 A working group on safety and security in the GED was established to review GED related policy changes. Effective May 2, 2018, the following have been enacted:

  • Require all clubs and bars to provide updated patron management plans to the City annually
  • Liquor establishments will be allowed to have  licensed outdoor patios with no net gain in liquor seats – applications will be reviewed by the City on a case by case basis
  • The moratorium on conversion of Food Primary to Liquor Primary seats remains in place and includes no additional liquor primary seats on Granville St between West Georgia to Drake streets. Limited exceptions will be made on a case-by-case basis for:
    • Live performance venues
    • Seat relocations
    • Creative solutions for net seat reductions in the GED
  • A last entry hour pilot will not be implemented in the GED

Live entertainment

Your business may offer live entertainment until 1am. The Licence Bylaw was amended on July 25, 2017, and the Noise Bylaw was amended on May 2, 2018 to reflect this change .

Offer standard size drinks

Establishments are encouraged to offer standard size drinks. Learn more about standard size drinks at Standard Drink  and Rethink Your Drinking .

Low strength drink options

Establishments are encouraged to offer low strength drink options, and to provide free soft drinks to designated drivers.

Effective May 2018

The following policy changes are in effect May 2, 2018. 

Display drink size and strength

To help patrons be better informed when making drink choices, establishments that serve alcoholic beverages are required to publish drink sizes and strengths.

This can either be the standard drink equivalent or percentage of alcohol by volume (ABV), and must include all drinks available at the establishment. See the staff report, page 9  (1.4 MB) for more details.

More details for displaying drink size and strength will be provided later this spring. 

Evening hours LP licence

We are now supporting applications from existing restaurants with food primary liquor licences to operate under liquor primary licences after 10pm provided that they meet the our existing procedural and policy standards for liquor primary licences.

Restaurants with established track records of good business operation who obtain an evening hours liquor primary licence will be allowed to apply for an extended hours liquor primary licence after three months as opposed to waiting six months.

Shortened liquor service hours probation period for experienced operators

Restaurant operators that have an established track record of adherence to bylaws and terms and conditions of their business licence who open a new restaurant will be considered for exemption of a liquor service hours probation period.

Washroom requirement for seasonal patio seating

We are developing guidelines to use in considering applications to exempt up to 12 patio seats from the washroom provision standard. It is anticipated that guidelines will be ready in spring 2018. Guidelines will be posted to this website once they are complete. Contact the Development and Building Services Centre at 604-873-7611 for further details.

As of May 2018, the following policy updates have been enacted.

Liquor primary licences for arts and culture based establishments

A new business licence will allow arts and culture businesses like art galleries, retail art dealer,s and community associations with arts mandates to sell alcohol to their patrons during regular business hours – licences will be granted on a case-by-case basis.

Operate lounge until midnight

You may now apply to operate your lounge until midnight. If you want to operate until midnight, apply to the City for an amendment to your development permit, and to the Province for an amendment to your lounge endorsement.  Contact the Development and Building Services Centre at 604.873.7611 for further information.

Extended hours for special occasions up to six times per year

You may now apply for extended hours at your lounge for up to six special occasions per year.

Expanded seating 

You may now apply for expanded seating at your lounge for area-wide cultural events. 

Sell at artisans markets

Artisans’ markets are now allowed to host up to three liquor manufacturers to sell and sample their products.

Store-in-store model for liquor retail in grocery stores

On April 17, 2018, City Council approved amendments to the City's Zoning and Development Bylaw to permit a new retail definition of a "Grocery Store and Liquor Store", which will permit grocery stores to operate a store-in-store model for liquor sales.

Applications can be accepted as of May 14, 2018.

Existing liquor store location guidelines will remain in effect. Design criteria for liquor stores in grocery stores are in the guidelines. See the Liquor Store Guidelines in the Council report, appendix C  (1.4 MB).

Liquor stores located in grocery stores will not be allowed to advertise in a way that minors in the grocery store can see or hear it. Read the Licence Bylaw  (390 KB)

All Provincial requirements must be met. Contact the Development and Building Services Centre at 604-873-7611 for more information.  

Liquor store guidelines

No additional liquor stores will be allowed in the DTES.  

Existing liquor stores may expand or relocate in the DTES.

Relocations should not result in more than one store in Strathcona, and one in the combined sub-areas of Gastown, Victory Square, Industrial, Chinatown, and Thornton Park.

We are taking the following measures to support public health and safety:

  • Request the Provincial government create and fund liquor-wise education
  • Seek opportunities to work with and support partner organizations in ongoing initiatives to encourage responsible public behaviour
  • Consider the benefits and impacts of restricting liquor advertising on city-owned property
  • Request Vancouver Coastal Health find opportunities to increase the availability of managed drinking programs
  • Increase inspection frequency by City Property Use Inspectors
  • Form multi-agency inspection teams, and seek commitments from the Province to increase provincial liquor inspector resource

The following instructions apply to new applications, and permanent changes to existing Liquor Primary licences.

Meet with a Licence Coordinator to discuss your application before you submit your application.

Application requirements

Include the following:

Public consultation

We encourage you to liaise with area residents and business operators before submitting your formal application to let them know of a possible application to eliminate the public's surprise once the City conducts the official neighbourhood public consultation. The Chief Licence Inspector determines the level of public consultation. Processing fees are based on the degree of public consultation required for each application.

The site sign must conform to size, shape, and lettering requirements. Specific wording and content for the sign is provided by the Licence Coordinator. All applications require a site sign unless indicated otherwise by the Licence Coordinator.

Size

Standard size is 4' × 8'. All variations must be approved by the License Coordinator.

Lettering

Lettering is to be black Helvetica on a white background.

Erection

Signs must be:

  • Placed on the ground, supported only by posts or poles
  • Erected in a sound, workmanlike manner, capable of withstanding wind and weather
  • Comply with the requirements of the Building Bylaw and Sign Bylaw

Location

Signs must be:

  • Clearly read from streets or lanes, and be clear of all site obstructions
  • Located within the site, approximately but not closer than 10'0" from any property line
  • No more than 16'0" high (sign top)

Site plan

The outline of the premises, as provided in the application, must be outlined in red, including:

  • A north arrow
  • Property and building dimensions
  • Adjoining properties (with the addresses)
  • Adjacent street names
  • The location of the sign, denoted on the plan with a reference to it stating: "You are here"

Notification of erection

You or your agent must advise the Chief License Inspector or License Coordinator when the sign has been erected on the site.

The City's notification letter to surrounding residents and businesses (when required), advising them of your application will not be sent until written confirmation and a photograph of the sign on the site after it has been erected is received.

Removal of signs

Signs must remain in place until Council has given a decision on the application, and must be removed no later than 7 days after the decision.

Sample

Sample of the sign you must display when applying for a liquor licence

Download a larger version of sample image

The City will prepare and circulate a notification flyer to surrounding residents and businesses located within a minimum radius of approximately 150 metres, or about 1 and ½ blocks, of the existing or proposed establishment.

The Notice of Application encourages all recipients to provide comments within three weeks from the date of the notice. Notices are circulated only after the Licence Coordinator has received confirmation that the site sign is installed.

The City will schedule and advertise a public meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to:

  • Provide a forum to present a preliminary staff position on the proposal and an objective assessment of potential impacts of the proposal to area residents and business operators.
  • Give the applicant an opportunity to provide further clarification on the nature of the proposal.
  • Provide residents and local businesses an opportunity to voice their concerns and ask questions of both staff and applicant.

We will normally schedule the public meeting in the last week of the neighbourhood flyer notification period or shortly after. Attendance at the meeting will be recorded and each attendee will be asked to indicate their support or opposition to the proposal. Verbatim minutes of the meeting are not recorded.

In cases where there appears to be considerable negative feedback or a clear split in support for and against the proposal within the neighbourhood, the City recommends a telephone survey.

The actual cost of the telephone survey, determined through a bid process, is in addition to the processing fee of $1,052 and is estimated at approximately $5,018. The telephone survey cost must be paid to the City by the applicant. The City then reimburses the firm chosen to conduct the survey.

A bid request to conduct the telephone survey is submitted to approve pre-qualified vendors by the City Purchasing Department. The lowest bidder is awarded the contract. The City specifies the following:

  • Area from which the sample is to be taken
  • Required number of completed calls
  • Required level of sample accuracy
  • Times during which phone calls can be made
  • Languages in which the interviews will be conducted
  • Script and questions and all other information that may be required.

Council reports

The Chief Licence Inspector will prepare a report to Council which will include comments from the following departments: Police, Fire Prevention, Development Services and Social Development (including Central Area Planning, Heritage Planning and Cultural Planning when applicable). The Chief Licence Inspector will recommend to endorse or not endorse, or put forward for consideration to Council a report including the following information:

  • The results of all public consultation(s) and a summary of public concerns and/or support
  • An analysis of your application with respect to existing Council policy, LCLB policy, your history/background, and all issues concerning the proposed location. We will also provide, when applicable, an objective pros and cons analysis of your application

All respondents providing their full name and address as part of the public consultation will be notified before the report is presented to Council. The Council report will be presented at the first available meeting of the Standing Committee of Council on Planning and Environment, subject to the City Clerk's Office report deadlines.

The Council decision is forwarded by the City Clerk's Office to the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch. A motion to defer a decision pending results of further public consultation will progress the application to the next step in the Public Consultation Process.

Application process

We will review the specifics of your proposal and determine the required level of public consultation. Your application will be circulated to relevant staff departments for comments. A Council report will typically be prepared at the end of this processing step for the following applications: Motor Vessels not requesting dockside service; very minor amendments to an existing Liquor Primary liquor licence and Motor Vessels requesting dockside service in areas where there are little or no residential uses in close proximity.

The total application fee for applications required to conduct Neighbourhood Notification is $2,045. All applications, except those noted in Step 1 above, will require neighbourhood notification.

At the end of this step in the process, a Council report will typically be prepared for the following Liquor Primary liquor licence applications: small hotel lounges; amendments to existing licences and some types of new establishments in areas of the City where there are little or no residential uses in close proximity.

The total application fee for applications required to conduct a Public Meeting is $3,966. A public meeting will normally be recommended for all new Liquor Primary liquor licence applications or major amendments to existing liquor licences in close proximity to residential uses and/or which may have a negative impact on adjacent businesses. New Restaurant Class-2 businesses in close proximity to residential uses may also require a public meeting.

At the end of this step, a final decision would be reached by Council on nearly all applications. Applications for establishments in designated entertainment areas, industrial areas, the core area of the Central Business District (CBD), areas with little adjacent residential development, or for a conversion of an existing liquor licence to a licence that will have a lesser impact (e.g., reduced hours; elimination of outdoor seating, etc.) would not normally be subject to the telephone survey requirement.

If your application requires a telephone survey, you must pay an additional $1012.00 for an application processing fee. Therefore, the total application processing fee will be $4,825.00. We expect that most applications required to conduct a telephone survey will be as a result of a Council decision. We will revise the report to Council to incorporate findings of the telephone survey.

 All application processing for liquor licence categories not specifically noted here would be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Typical processing time for most applications is approximately three months, but may vary depending upon the nature of the application.

Applications not complying with Council policy or LCLB policy will delay processing and may not be brought to Council until the policy issues have been resolved.

Temporary Liquor Licence Amendment Requests

Submit an amendment request when you want to temporarily extend:

  • Opening hours
  • Closing hours
  • Area (for example, patios)

Requests to temporarily amend a liquor licence must be submitted within a minimum of 5 weeks in advance of the first requested amendment date.

Staff can consider up to six requests per calendar year for LP has a track record of problem-free operations and adherence to bylaws and terms and conditions of their business licence.

Parameters for consideration

  • Vancouver International Jazz Festival
  • Vancouver Pride Festival
  • Night preceding a statutory holiday
  • Other “one-off” dates (for example, grand openings, establishment anniversaries, charity fundraisers, unique or rare live performances, significant dates or other similar functions) may be considered within the calendar year
  • No requests to open earlier than 9:00am

Area extensions

  • Size of the area extensions are assessed on a case by case basis
  • A limited number of extensions for existing approved patios will be considered for a maximum of 4 separate days in a calendar year

Extension requests for 5 or more days in a calendar year, requests for outdoor seating from establishments that do not currently have an approved patio space or requests that would reduce or eliminate off-street parking and/or loading spaces for the site must first obtain a development permit approval from the Director of Planning.

  The Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB) restrict the number of temporary changes in the range of 4 to 6 events per calendar year. Please contact the LCLB for further information.

Guidelines

Applicable to all temporary requests to amend any liquor licence:

  • Your application will not be supported if there are any violations documented in the 4 months prior to the application submission date (previous 12 months will be reviewed);
  • Your application will not be supported if inspection staff have verified area resident or business complaints regarding the operation of the establishment for the 4 months prior to the application submission date (consideration for approval may be given if the business has taken extraordinary measures to resolve the issue of the complaint);
  • Favourable consideration will only be given to hours of operation extensions that are within the parameters of Table 1 "Council Approved Special Event Hours of Liquor Service by Area"

    Table 1 "Council Approved Special Event Hours of Liquor Service by Area" (Council meeting notice May 6, 2006)
    Area Special event hours
    Downtown -
    Primarily Commercial
    9:00am to 4:00am, 7 days a week
    Downtown -
    Primarily Mixed-use
    9:00am to 3:00am, Sunday to Thursday;
    9:00am to 4:00am, Friday and Saturday
    Downtown -
    Primarily Residential
    9:00am to 2:00am, Sunday to Thursday;
    9:00am to 3:00am, Friday and Saturday
    Non-Downtown -
    Primarily Commercial/Industrial
    9:00am to 3:00am, 7 days a week
    Non-Downtown -
    Primarily Mixed-use
    9:00am to 2:00am, Sunday to Thursday;
    9:00am to 3:00am, Friday and Saturday
    Non-Downtown -
    Primarily Residential
    9:00am to 1:00am, Sunday to Thursday;
    9:00am to 2:00am, Friday and Saturday
    Downtown Eastside (DEOD) 9:00am to 2:00am, Friday and Saturday only
  • Area extensions:
    • Area extensions to existing patios may be considered for one day, up to a maximum of 4 times per calendar year, without requiring development permit approval from the Director of Planning. Extension requests that would reduce or eliminate required off-street parking or loading spaces will require development permit approval from the Director of Planning
    • Area extensions to exterior areas that are not associated with an existing approved patio must first obtain development permit approval from the Director of Planning
    • Area extensions to seating areas in arenas, theatres or other similar venues holding a Liquor Primary liquor licence can be considered for an unlimited number of times per year as long as an Occupant Load for liquor service in the seating area has been obtained from the Vancouver Fire Prevention Office
  • Letter of support/permit approval limitations:
    • Opening hour and area extensions can be issued for up to 3 month intervals and
    • Closing hour extensions shall be limited to no more than 4 to 6 events per calendar year as per LCLB policy

Applying for a temporary amendment

If you would like to make temporary amendments to your existing liquor licence, you will need to complete and submit the following:

Fees

Amendment requested Fee
Change of capacity $92
Change of hours Earlier opening hours: $92 per liquor licence
Later closing hours: $0.45/seat per night
Extension to licensed area $92
Miscellaneous changes $92

Supporting documents

  • Complete and signed City of Vancouver Temporary Liquor Licence Amendment form
  • Complete and signed LCLB Temporary Change to Liquor Licence form Note: Include all pages of the form. Those sections of the provincial form that are not applicable should be crossed out as “N/A” and initialed. Applications with missing pages will be returned as incomplete.
  • Copy of your valid Provincial liquor licence
  • Copy of the LCLB red-lined floor plan for the liquor licence (area extension requests only)
  • Floor plan (fully dimensioned) of requested area extension (area extension requests only)
  • Site plan (fully dimensioned) showing the relation of the existing licensed area to the area extension request (area extension requests only)
  • Payment of the application processing fees
  • Cover letter indicating preferred contact name, business email address, telephone and fax number

Review process

  1. Submit a complete application (as indicated by the checklist above) a minimum of 5 weeks in advance of the first requested amendment date. (The LCLB requires a minimum of 3 weeks and the City of Vancouver requires a minimum of 10 business days processing time to review the application). Note: Applications submitted less than 5 weeks in advance or incomplete applications will not be supported and will be subject to a $92 minimum processing fee.
  2. Process payment of the application fee.
  3. Application circulated to relevant departments for comments and clearance. Note: Vancouver Police Department and Vancouver Coastal Health Authority comments and/or clearances will be required for most applications. Additional departmental comments may be required (such as, Fire Prevention or Engineering – Street Administration) based on the nature of the request.
  4. We will complete the application review and make appropriate comments within 14 calendar days of the application.
  5. We will contact you to return the paperwork required for you to complete the LCLB temporary change application process.

The following instructions apply to applications to permanently change hours of liquor service at Food Primary establishments, or restaurants.

Regulations

A bylaw amendment passed by Council on November 19, 2009 establishes the hours of liquor service in restaurants as:

  • 1:00am closing time Sunday to Thursday
  • 2:00am closing time Friday and Saturday

A half-hour tolerance period, after which drinks must be removed from tables, applies.

To operate under later hours, you must send an application to the City of Vancouver, and the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB).

 Brand new licences and operators are restricted to hours of liquor service to midnight for a period of up to six months at the discretion of the Chief Licence Inspector. New licences that are operated by “known good operators” will be considered for regular hours of liquor service right away.

Restaurants must:

  • Offer the full restaurant menu to customers during all hours of allowable liquor service
  • Have financial records, and a ratio of receipts from food sales to liquor sales, that are consistent with restaurant use
  • Keep financial records and receipts for at least one year, and show them to the Inspector upon request      
  • Keep sales receipts for all sales of food and liquor for at least one year, and show them to the Inspector upon request

 Live entertainment (patron non-participation) is permitted until 1:00am. This requires an endorsement from the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch.

Licensed restaurants need only one of the following:

  • Restaurant Class 1 with Liquor business licence
  • Restaurant Class 2 with Liquor business licence (if patron participation entertainment such as dancing or karaoke offered)

Applying for an amendment

If you would like to amend the liquor service hours of your restaurant, you will need to complete and submit the following:

The Licence Office will review public comments received, sign Part 11 of the LCLB permanent change application form, and provide comments to the General Manager of LCLB regarding your application.

The City may not support your application if there are any violations documented, and we have verified complaints regarding the operation of the establishment. Consideration for approval may be given if the business has taken extraordinary measures to resolve the issues of the complaint.

We will contact you when your LCLB application form has been signed and is ready to be picked up.

You must submit the form to the LCLB to complete the permanent change application process. Third-party operators cannot complete and sign this form.

The LCLB processes applications per current policy, and approves or refuses applications as required. Their decision will be forwarded to you and the City of Vancouver.

Fees for a Restaurant Class 1 or 2 with Liquor service are:

Licence type Base fee Seat fee
New $813 (includes $56 new application fee) $9.90/seat
Renewal $757 $9.90/seat

Past updates

June 14, 2017 - Council adopted policy changes affecting establishments that serve and retail liquor.

Fall 2016 - Thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts on draft actions for the Vancouver Liquor Strategy. Read the result summaries from our liquor surveys.

Spring 2016 - we asked for initial feedback on our liquor strategy. Our first survey is now closed.

Learn about the liquor licence fees

Licence Bylaw 4450

See Schedules A and B for liquor licence fees.

All licences expire annually on 31 December each year. Fees are pro-rated based on the business start date.

Contact the Licence Coordinator

Licence Coordinator

Phone: 604-871-6461

Assistant to the Licence Coordinator

Phone: 604-873-7954

Email