About liquor in British Columbia
In British Columbia, there are two branches of government that are responsible for the wholesale distribution and retail sale of beverage alcohol – the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) and the Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB). The LCRB operates within the framework provided by the Liquor Control and Licensing Act and the Liquor Control and Licensing Regulation. The LCRB licenses and monitors restaurants, bars, pubs, liquor manufacturers, private retail stores, and special events involving liquor. As of September 2022, the LCRB supervises over 10,300 licensed establishments and over 28,000 licensed events per year. The LDB operates within the framework provided by the Liquor Distribution Act, and associated regulations, as well as the federal Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act. The LDB is responsible for the wholesale distribution of liquor in the province and operates 198 retail stores across the province through its BC-LIQUOR chain.
British Columbia is also home to a strong local liquor industry. As of September 2022, more than 830 manufacturing licences operate in BC, including breweries, distelleries, and winderies (which incldues cideries and meaderies).
Registration and Listing process
How do I introduce new products into British Columbia?
In BC, under the provincial Liquor Distribution Act, all beverage alcohol products must be registered with the LDB’s Wholesale Operations department in order to be available for sale in the province, whether in a private liquor store or a government-run BC LIQUOR store. For more information on the registration process, visit the Agents and Suppliers section of the LDB’s corporate site, and the LDB’s Wholesale Operations website, which includes product registration guides to help manufacturers and agents through the process developed by the LBD.
How do I sell my products in BC LIQUOR stores?
In order to sell products in provincial BC LIQUOR stores, manufacturers/agents must have a listing.
For more information on how to apply for a product listing, visit the FAQ section of the BC LIQUOR website.
Labelling and packaging requirements
What are the labelling and packaging requirements in British Columbia?
The LDB reviews labels and packaging for compliance with the Social Responsibility Criteria for Registration of Liquor Products policy, which can be found in the ‘Policies’ section of the LDB’s Wholesale Operations website. In addition, the manufacturer/agent is responsible for ensuring labels are in compliance with Canada Food Inspection Agency rules and regulations, and that products are in compliance with the federal Food and Drugs Act. You may also find information in the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and Regulations guideline.
More information can be found in the product registration guides on the ‘Vendors’ section of the LDB’s Wholesale Operations website.
Laboratory testing requirements
What are the laboratory testing requirements in British Columbia?
The only situations where laboratory testing may be required is for:
- Registration of absinthe, as there is a maximum allowable level of thujones;
- Registration of products containing caffeine; and
- Registration of malt-based products, as residual sugar content is one of the factors used to determine whether the product should be classified as a beer or a refreshment beverage. The LDB’s policy can be found in the ‘Policies’ section of the LDB’s Wholesale Operations website.
What components make up the price of liquor in British Columbia?
Several components make up the price of liquor sold in BC:
- Liquor manufacturers (or their agents) set the supplier price for a product.
- Based on the supplier price, the LDB calculates the wholesale price. This price includes:
- container deposits and recycling fees;
- provincial markup; and
- federal customs and excise duties (as applicable) and the goods and services tax (GST).
- All liquor retailers in the province purchase products from the LDB at the wholesale price.
- Retailers set the final shelf price that consumers pay, which includes a retail margin added to the wholesale price. The final shelf price must be higher than the wholesale price the retailer paid for the liquor and the minimum price schedule set by the LCRB, whichever is higher.
- In addition, establishments which serve liquor by the glass, such as bars and restaurants, must follow minimum drink prices set by the LCRB set out in the term and condition handbooks of the respective licence class.
Sales channels and distribution
How does the sale and distribution of liquor products work in British Columbia?
Under the Liquor Distribution Act, the LDB is the legal importer of record for liquor in BC, and has the sole right to purchase both within BC and from outside the province, liquor for resale and reuse in BC, in accordance with the federal Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act. As a result, all manufacturers (or their agents) sell liquor products to wholesale customers through the LDB. Wholesale customers include liquor stores, bars, pubs and restaurants. Some wholesale customers may also purchase from BC manufacturers directly.
In BC, there are both public and private warehouses. The LDB’s two liquor distribution centres are located in Kamloops and Delta and receive and store both import and domestic product. There are also a number of approved third party warehouses in the LDB’s Liquor Warehouse Program.
For general information, visit the ‘Resources’ section of the LDB’s Wholesale Operations website.
For more information related to becoming a manufacturer in BC, visit the LDB’s website for BC liquor manufacturers and information specific to agents representing important (outside of BC) products is available in the New Agents section.
Marketing and promotion policies
What are the rules for the marketing and promotion of liquor products in British Columbia?
The policies for promoting and marketing liquor made by liquor manufacturers within BC are set out in the Manufacturer Terms and Conditions Handbook. The LCRB also sets policies for promoting and marketing liquor for agents of liquor manufacturers outside of BC in the Agent Terms and Conditions Handbook.
Do I need a liquor licence to sell liquor in BC?
Yes, if you want to sell liquor, you will need a liquor licence or permit. There are different types of licences or permits for different businesses and for special events. The types of liquor licences are:
- Food Primary – for businesses where the primary purpose is to serve food (such as restaurants, bistros cafes)
- Liquor Primary – for businesses where the primary purpose is to sell liquor (bars, as well as stadiums, theatres, etc.) as well as other businesses that wish to serve liquor as an additional service to their primary business (spas, salons, art galleries, etc).
- Manufacturer – for wineries, breweries or distilleries
- Agent – for independent liquor agents who market products from liquor manufacturers outside of B.C.
- Catering − for catering companies who wish to serve liquor in addition to food, with food service as the primary purpose
- UBrew and UVin (Ferment-on-Premises) – for businesses that sell ingredients, equipment and provide advice for customers to make their own beer, wine, cider or coolers
- Rural Licensee Retail Store – is a retail store license for rural communities and tourist destinations resorts
- Special Event Liquor Permit – required for an event organizer or host (i.e., individual, organization or business) to sell or serve liquor in a location that is not a private residence, private place, or licensed establishment (A special event may be held in a licensed establishment, but the establishment must temporarily suspend their liquor licence to do so)
- Non-beverage Alcohol Exemption – is for people who sell, supply, purchase or use non-beverage alcohol products such as culinary, medicinal, or toiletry products
- Licensee Retail Store − for selling liquor by the bottle at retail store
- Wine Store – for wine stores including winery-operated stores, independent wine stores, BC VQA stores and tourist wine stores
- Special Wine Store – available at grocery stores only, the special wine store licence permits the sale of wine in a designated area on grocery store shelves
Licence applications can be found on the LCRB’s website. Please note that there is a moratorium on new licensee retail stores, wine stores and Special Wine Store licences.
Relevant legislation, regulations and policies
What rules apply to me?
All activities related to the sale, consumption, importation, manufacture, possession, storage and distribution/use of liquor in BC must be undertaken in accordance with the provincial Liquor Control and Licensing Act and associated regulations, the provincial Liquor Distribution Act and associated regulations, and LCRB and LDB policies. The LCRB has also published terms and conditions handbooks with licence specific rules for licensees and permittees.
Who can I contact for more information?
If you have any questions or would like more information: