Special Occasion Licence
For Public and Private events (e.g., Weddings, Tastings and Community Festivals):
If you want to serve liquor in a public place or sell liquor anywhere, you will need either a private or public Special Occasion Licence. Here's what you need to know:
- Individuals are only eligible to apply for a private family Special Occasion Licence for family-related events such as weddings or family reunions.
- Non-profit organizations may apply for either a private or public Special Occasion Licence for an event they are hosting.
- Businesses or event planners are generally not eligible to apply for a Special Occasion Licence.
To apply for a Special Occasion Licence, please visit www.solo.bcldb.com.
Private Family Special Event
A private family special occasion is limited to family & friends.
The occasion must be a family event such as a wedding, birthday party, anniversary or family reunion.
Private Special Event
A private special occasion is an event hosted by a group or organization that is limited to attendance by:
This occasion may be social, cultural, recreational, religious, sporting or community event , or a tasting to acquaint people with the product of a winery, brewery or distillery.
Public special event
A public special occasion is open to anyone who wishes to participate or buy a ticket, either at the door or in advance of the event.
The occasion may be:
- a community or public event (such as a community festival or outdoor concert)
- a tasting event so a liquor manufacturer can showcase their product, or
- any event that contributes to the cultural or social life of the community
If you are planning a public special event in the City of Vancouver you will need approval from the Vancouver Police Department Emergency and Operational Planning Unit. Please read the information on their website – vancouver.ca/police/organization/operations/emergency-operations-planning/operational-planning.html and contact the Emergency Operational Planning Unit for an application form to obtain approval (contact information is on their website).
Basic rules for a Special Occasion Licence
You must follow British Columbia's liquor laws. The laws which govern commercial bar owners — such as not selling liquor to minors or to persons who are intoxicated — also apply to you.
The host of the special event (either an individual or a designated representative from a club or other group) must apply for the Special Occasion Licence. Caterers, paid or unpaid managers or event coordinators cannot apply on the host's behalf.
An applicant for a Special Ocasion Licence must be at least 19 years old and either:
Licence Costs are as follows:
- Private Special Occasion: $25.00 per day
- Public Special Occasion: $100.00 per day
Serving It Right/Special Event Server
On September 15 2015, the Responsible Beverage Service Certificate requirements were changed. All servers, paid or unpaid, are now required to have a Special Event Server certificate before the event begins if they do not already have a Serving it Right certificate.
If the event has 500 or more people, the licensee and managers will be required to have a Serving It Right certificate before the event begins. If the event has less than 500 people, the licensee and managers will be required to have a Special Event Server certificate before the event begins if they do not already have a Serving It Right certificate.
For more information, please see Policy Directive 14-20.
Sales and Service
You must purchase your liquor from a BC Liquor Store or another source approved by the Liquor Distribution Branch.
You may only provide (serve but not sell) home-made beer, cider or wine or UBrew/UVin (Ferment-on-Premises) products under a private family special occasion licence. You may not allow the people attending the event to bring their own liquor, at either a private or a public special event.
If you are selling liquor at your event, you must follow the maximum liquor price schedule — you are not allowed to charge more than the amounts listed on the schedule without special authorization from the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch.
Duty of Care
Once you have a Special Occasion Licence, if you serve alcohol to someone who becomes impaired as a result, you may be held legally liable for that person's subsequent behaviour.
As a licensee, you have a "duty of care" — which means you must protect patrons at your event and others from harm that may be associated with the activity of drinking. This includes harm which may occur on the premises of your event, as well as harm which may occur after the patron has left the premises.
Minors (under age 19) are generally allowed at licensed special events, but may not drink — or serve — liquor, or sell drink tickets. Minors are not allowed in public beer gardens.
Your servers must ask to see two pieces of identification if they believe the person ordering a drink is underage.
You must not sell or serve liquor to an intoxicated person, or allow an intoxicated person to remain in the area covered by your Special Occasion Licence.
If a person becomes intoxicated, you must take reasonable steps to ensure that the person does not harm himself/herself or others.
Local Government/First Nation and Police Approval
Police approval may be required for an event, depending on the size and type of event. If police approval is not required, applications may be approved automatically.
Local government approvals must be obtained by an applicant for events on local government land or premises in advance of applying for a Special Occasion Licence.
Indoor events may be held between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. the following day; outdoor events may be held between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. the same day.
Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages
You must supply a reasonable amount of food and non-alcoholic beverages at your event.
Number of Licences
You may not apply for more than three Special Occasion Licences per month, or a maximum of 24 per year. If you apply for more than this limit at www.solo.bcldb.com, an exemption request will be automatically created and will require review by a case manager.
Penalties for Liquor Infractions
Special occasion licence holders are subject to the same enforcement penalties for liquor infractions as commercial bar owners. Special Occasion Licence holders are liable for any contraventions which occur while the licence is in effect, and this liability will continue for up to six months after the event has ended.
When you host an event under a special occasion licence, you cannot:
- sell or serve liquor to minors
- allow someone who is intoxicated to enter or remain at your event
- serve a guest to the point of intoxication
- permit unlawful activity
- sell illicit liquor (product that has been acquired other than through an approved LDB outlet such as a government liquor store) and
- allow someone who has a weapon to enter or remain at your event (if you suspect someone has a weapon, notify the police immediately).
In addition, you must ensure:
- your event does not disturb nearby residents and businesses, and
- liquor inspectors and police are given immediate access to your event, and to any documents related to your Special Occasion Licence.
For a complete list of contraventions and penalties see Schedule 4 of the Liquor Control and Licensing Regulation.
Important Information for Special Occasion Licence Major Events
Major events are events licensed by a Special Occasion Licence which, because of the number of people
attending, nature of the venue, characteristics of the event or impact on the local community, may
require additional planning and review by the police and a liquor inspector.
Provided below are a guide to the terms and conditions for a Special Occasion Licence major event as well
as a quick reference card that can be used by staff and managers of a major event. The cards contain a
QR code that will send the user to a mobile-friendly version of the terms and conditions guidebook.
A security plan is required for any special event licensed to sell or serve liquor if 500 or more people are expected to attend, or if required by local police. You may use the form below or provide similiar information in a different format.
Liquor inspectors will assess the risk to public safety based on factors that include event character, size and duration; patron demographic; lighting; site visibility; licensee compliance history; crowd density; security presence.
Upon evaluation of these and other relevant factors, compliance and enforcement management may, in consultation with liquor inspectors, impose beverage gardens. Liquor inspectors will evaluate overall SOL risk by reference to the Risk Assessment Tool below:
Exceptions to Special Occasion Licence Rules
Online applications will be automatically referred to the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch if you request to:
- hold more than three Special Occasion Licences per month or 24 per year
- extend the hours for your event, and/or
- charge more than the Special Occasion Licence — Liquor Price Schedule, (LCLB031a). The branch will only approve a price increase if you are holding an event to raise money for a charitable purpose.
A charitable purpose is defined in the Liquor Control and Licensing Act as "the relief of poverty, the advancement of education, the advancement of religion and other purposes beneficial to the community". We may require proof of association with the charity or cause before allowing the exception.
To apply for an exemption, please fill out the online application at www.solo.bcldb.com at least four weeks before your event. There is no fee to apply for an exemption. If your application requires an exemption, it will be directed to LCLB automatically.
For more information about exceptions, please call the SOL Support Centre toll free at 1-855-999-7656.
Special Occasion Licence Manual & Guide
Special Occasion Licence Policy Manual
This manual provides information on special occasion licences and is written primarily for Liquor Control and Licensing Branch and Liquor Distribution Branch staff, police, local governments, rural agency store staff, and local Committee(s) to Approve Public Events (CAPE).