Vancouver uncorks possibilities for restaurants, bars and pubs with amendments to liquor distancing policy

Two raised beverage glasses
December 13 2023 –

Following today’s decision by City Council, the City of Vancouver will amend its liquor distancing policy to support new and existing bars, pubs and restaurants looking to expand in the Granville Entertainment District (GED) and parts of downtown, including Chinatown, Gastown, Industrial District, Thornton Park and Victory Square areas. This initiative follows Council’s directive in July 2022, tasking staff with a comprehensive review of the existing liquor distancing policy and developing subsequent recommendations. 

“The City’s existing liquor distancing policy has long been perceived as a hurdle for business owners,” said Mayor Ken Sim. “The changes bring Vancouver’s liquor policies in line with other municipalities in the region and will give businesses the flexibility to innovate and bring forward fresh ideas. This especially aligns with our new vision for Granville Street as the City’s premier destination for entertainment.” 

Key changes include: 

  • Removing liquor distancing requirements which will allow clusters of same-sized establishments and enable the creation of potential new destination areas.  
  • Lifting the moratoria on new liquor establishments and seat expansions in the Granville Entertainment District, Chinatown, Gastown, Industrial District, Thornton Park and Victory Square areas to allow exciting changes that will enhance economic activity.  
  • Increasing the capacity of Class 2 establishments, the largest allowed next to residential areas, from 150 to 200 persons, to increase financial viability of businesses. 
  • Streamlining policy by enabling dual-license restaurants to transition into a bar starting at 9 PM, an hour earlier than current regulations and in alignment with provincial regulations.  
  • Creating opportunities for non-traditional liquor-serving establishments, such as spas, barber shops, and retail stores, to allow them to obtain a liquor-primary license and enable more diverse types of businesses. 
  • Reducing the City’s processing time on applications by delegating Council authority to provide recommendations to the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB). 

“In reviewing existing liquor policies, the City engaged with community groups, local businesses and the Hospitality Sector Working Group to understand how we can reduce red tape and foster economic development,” said Sarah Hicks, Chief Licence Inspector. “The changes to the liquor distancing policy will enable opportunities for growth while maintaining the necessary checks and balances to support health and safety.” 

Following standard procedure, each application for a Liquor Establishment will continue to undergo inter-departmental review and review from Vancouver Police Department. Staff will also continue to work with Vancouver Coastal Health, community groups and VPD to monitor the impact of these changes closely, with specific attention to any impacts in the Downtown Eastside and adjacent neighbourhoods.   

Learn more about the City’s liquor policy.