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Burnaby wants to cut red tape for liquor, cannabis licensing

Burnaby is reviewing its liquor and cannabis policies, which include considering private cannabis businesses (currently not allowed in the city) and potential public desire for more places to consume liquor such as parks, spas and barbershops.
Alcohol: Burnaby is updating its liquor and cannabis policy. Photo d3sign/Moment/Getty Images

The City of Burnaby wants to modernize its liquor and cannabis licence applications and simplify the approvals process for those businesses.

Burnaby’s liquor licence application processing procedure hasn’t been comprehensively reviewed in 20 years, according to a staff report submitted by planning general manager Ed Kozak.

The city wants to update its guidelines to better align with current Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) policies, which is the provincial body responsible for distributing alcohol and non-medical cannabis and operating BC Liquor and BC Cannabis stores.

The review will consider options and criteria for permitting private cannabis stores, which are currently not allowed in Burnaby.

The city will begin public consultation this fall with an online survey.

The survey will include questions on where liquor and cannabis stores should be located, satisfaction on locations of existing liquor stores and establishments and cannabis stores, as well as the desire for additional places to consume liquor such as parks, spas and barbershops.

The review will respond to industry changes, including the increase in breweries, the introduction of government-owned and private retail cannabis stores in the province and the retail sale of wine in grocery stores.

Kozak also recommended the city update outdated criteria (such as distance from “cyber cafes”) and find ways to reduce processing time.

Kozak told city council at a meeting on June 19 most of the review will be focused on liquor facilities and liquor stores rather than cannabis shops, noting a recent motion directing staff to work on policies to encourage a brewery row in Burnaby.

“A lot of the conversation here is about removing some of the barriers that we currently have in our regulatory structure from allowing for these things to occur organically,” Kozak said.

Coun. Sav Dhaliwal noted the review should exercise caution in increasing the availability of private liquor or cannabis stores.

“The purpose of this isn’t to throw everything wide open … The purpose is to make sure that we are reasonably meeting the needs of the community,” Dhaliwal said.

He added council hasn’t heard much public demand for increased availability of alcohol or cannabis shops.

“The vendors, the people who want to have a store, they’ve been demanding.”

Kozak agreed the intent isn’t to “liberalize the regulations” around licensing retail stores.

The focus, he said, will be on liquor-primary and liquor licence facilities, which must go through “an enormous process” – even to change their hours or add one extra seat.

“We’re looking to simplify that,” Kozak said.