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 Occassion Licence. Here's what you need to know:
- Individuals are only eligible to apply for a private Special Occasion Licences 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.
Applications for Special Occasion Licences are available from BC Liquor Stores.
Private special event
A private special occasion is an event that is limited to attendance by:
- an organization's members or staff
- invited guests or ticket holders (tickets must be sold or given away before the event)
The occasion may be:
social (such as a staff party, birthday or anniversary)
religious (such as a wedding, christening, bar mitzvah or other religious occasion), cultural, recreational, sports or community orientated, or
promotional, to acquaint people with the product of a licensed winery, brewery or distillery
Pre-wedding parties, such as stags or bachelorettes do not qualify for a private or public special occasion licence and must be held in a licensed establishment or a residence.
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:
- a resident of B.C.
- a Canadian Citizen or lawfully admitted to Canada under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (Canada) for permanent residence, or
- for any other person, have received approval to apply for a Special Occasion Licence by completing the Application for Special Occasion Licence Policy Exemption form.
Licence Costs are as follows:
- Private Special Occasion: $25.00 per day
- Public Special Occasion: $100.00 per day
Serving It Right
If you are applying as a representative of a club, business or other group, you and any paid managers or servers for your event must complete Serving it Right: The Responsible Beverage Service Program, before you can apply for a Special Occasion Licence.
If you are applying as an individual (not attached to a group), you will most likely not be required to complete Serving It Right, but if you hire any managers or servers, they must each have a Serving It Right certificate by the time you hold your event.
Sales and Service
You must purchase your liquor from a BC Liquor Store or another source approved by the Liquor Distribution Branch.
You may not provide home-made beer or wine or UBrew/UVin products, or allow the people attending the event to bring their own liquor, at either a private or a public special event.
You may not sell hard liquor at a public special event without special authorization from the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (beer, wine, cider and coolers are allowed).
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
Local government and police approval is required for all public special events, and may be required for private special events.
The manager at your local BC Liquor Store will know the local approval requirements. If approval is required, you will need to take your completed application form to the police department and/or local government office for the area where your event will be held.
Indoor events may be held between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. the following day; outdoor events may be held between and 9:00 a.m. 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 two Special Occasion Licences per month, or a maximum of 24 per year, without special authorization from the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch.
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 immediate 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.
Exceptions to Special Occasion Licence Rules
You may apply to the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch to:
- hold more than two Special Occasion Licences per month or 24 per year
- extend the hours for your event
- sell hard liquor at a public special event (you must also have police and local government approval for this, in advance, before you apply for an exception from us ), 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 exception, please fill out the Application for Special Occasion Licence Policy Exemptions (LCLB031) and send it to the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch at least four weeks before your event. The fee to apply for an exception is $100.00.
For more information about exceptions, please call the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch toll free at 1-866-209-2111.
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).
Special Occasion Licence Licensing Guide
This guide is intended primarily for the use of government liquor store staff to assist them in issuing Special Occasion Licences. It may also be useful to Liquor Control and Licensing Branch staff, other Liquor Distribution Branch staff, police and local governments.