Contents



Ministry of Justice


Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB)

What Everyone Should Know About B.C.'s Liquor Laws

This page contains basic information on liquor laws in B.C. Please click on the specific category for more information. If you have a question that is not covered here, please contact us.

Legal drinking age

The legal drinking age in British Columbia is 19 years of age.

ID requirements

It’s a good idea to have identification with you when purchasing alcohol in B.C. If a server believes you may be underage, they must verify your age by asking to see the following two pieces of ID:

  • An official government issued ID (including official foreign government-issued IDs) with your name, signature, picture and birth date, such as a driver’s licence or passport.
  • A secondary piece of ID that includes an imprint of your name and your signature or picture, such as a credit card.

If the server has any doubts about a customer’s ID, they may refuse service.

Minors

In British Columbia, the legal drinking age is 19. Anyone under the age of 19 is considered to be a minor.

The following lists the liquor law rules that apply to minors in British Columbia:

  • It’s against the law to purchase liquor for or give liquor to a minor.
  • Minors are not permitted in any type of government or private liquor store unless they are accompanied by a parent or guardian.
  • Minors are allowed in a restaurant at any time, and they don’t need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian, but they may not be served liquor.
  • Minors may enter restaurant lounges when accompanied by an adult, but they may not be served liquor.
  • LCLB policy permits minors who are 16 or older to serve liquor in restaurants, but they may not open bottles, pour, or mix liquor.
  • In general, minors may not enter bars or pubs, however, there are exceptions to this in certain circumstances (for full details, refer to section 10.1.3 of the Licensing Policy Manual).
  • Minors may not be employed to sell or serve liquor in a bar or pub.
  • You may not sell or give liquor to a minor, or permit a minor to drink liquor in your home or business. The fine for doing this is a minimum of $500, and you may also be held legally responsible for any damages or injury caused as a result.
  • If you are a parent, guardian, or spouse of a minor you may provide liquor only to your child or minor spouse in the privacy of your home. This exception does not allow you to provide liquor to any other minors who may be in your home.
  • If minors are caught with liquor in their possession, if they try to buy liquor, if they are found inside a bar or pub, or if they try to buy liquor using false ID, they can receive a $230 violation ticket fine. Liquor inspectors can issue tickets for these offences inside licensed establishments, and other law enforcement officers can issue tickets in other locations under their jurisdiction. Police can issue tickets at any location.
Drinking in a public place

In B.C., you are not allowed to drink alcohol in a public place—such as a street or a park—unless it has been specially approved as a place where drinking may occur (during a community festival where there is a liquor licence in place, for example). You may drink alcohol outside at your home or at your campsite.

Police powers

The police may arrest you if you are found intoxicated (drunk) in a public place.

They may also seize your liquor if you are found drinking or selling it in a public place, supplying it to minors, or driving with an open liquor bottle in the car. (Please see Liquor seizures and how to get your liquor back for more on this.)

Liquor in a motor vehicle

Open liquor in a motor vehicle must not be readily accessible to anyone in the motor vehicle (stored behind the seat, in the trunk, etc.). Passengers are not permitted to consume alcohol in a moving vehicle.

Liquor and boating

Since boats operate on public waterways, liquor may only be consumed in boats or other water craft if the vessel is licensed or it is being used as a residence. In this case, residents and their guests may consume liquor in the cabin or on the deck of their boat.

Having open liquor and drinking liquor in open vessels, small water craft, or vessels which are not equipped to be living quarters is not allowed.

Operating or assisting to operate a vessel or having the care and control of a vessel while impaired by alcohol or with a blood alcohol level more than .08 (eighty milligrams of alcohol in one hundred millilitres of blood) is a criminal offence. The same rules which prohibit driving while impaired apply to vessels.

Persons using smaller vessels for a special event, such as a day charter by a social club for its members, may obtain a Special Occasion Licence to allow for the sale and service of liquor to the participants.

Cruise ships and larger motor vessels that ply scheduled routes or travel from one destination to another may be licensed if they provide a service that, while primarily marine oriented, is consistent with the services provided by other sectors of the hospitality industry (for example, luncheon and dinner cruises).

Buying alcoholic beverages

You can purchase packaged liquor—such as a bottle of wine or a case of beer—at government liquor stores, or licensed private outlets, including specialty wine stores. Liquor is not sold in grocery stores and corner stores in B.C.

Bars, pubs, restaurants, night clubs and stadiums sell drinks by-the-glass. You may not bring your own alcohol into these venues.

Bringing your own wine to restaurant, and taking home unfinished bottles of wine

Customers can bring their own bottle of wine to a restaurant to enjoy with their meal. Customers arrive and hand the bottle of wine to staff who then serve it in the same manner as wine selected from the menu. Restaurants may charge a corkage fee for this service. Participation in this service by licensed restaurants is voluntary.

Patrons may take home unfinished bottles of wine from a bar or restaurant, provided one of the servers re-seals it before they leave. If they are leaving by car, they must ensure it is not readily accessible to anyone in the vehicle while driving. (Store it behind the seat or in the trunk, etc.)

>> for more information see Policy Directive 12-05

Bringing alcoholic beverages into B.C. for your own personal consumption

British Columbians returning to B.C. from elsewhere in Canada can bring back up to one case (nine litres) of wine, four bottles (three litres) of spirits and a combined total of six dozen bottles (25.6 litres) of beer, cider and coolers per trip, as long as they are carrying it with them and it is for their own personal consumption.

Responsibilities of those who sell alcohol in B.C.

Licensees must follow provincial liquor laws and policies, to ensure safe and responsible liquor service. For example, there are strict limits on the hours of sale and the number of people they may allow in a licensed establishment at any given time. In addition, servers must refuse service to anyone who is intoxicated and ensure they leave safely.

Liquor inspectors and/or police visit licensed establishments—and will usually arrive unannounced—to ensure servers are complying with B.C. liquor laws. Licensees found not following the rules may receive a fine or suspension, or lose their licence.

Consular liquor

Foreign consulates can bring liquor into B.C. to serve at events hosted by the consul general at their consulate. They can also donate diplomatic or consular liquor to events at locations outside the consulate provided there is a charitable or fundraising component. After the event, the event organizers must return any unused product to the consulate. The charity or organization receiving the funds must obtain prior approval from the Director Finance Regulatory, Liquor Distribution Branch.