Dear Minister Anton,
On behalf of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) Society of British Columbia, I would like to thank you for your response to our letter dated April 21, 2014 concerning a number of liquor policy issues. Our letter addressed the misrepresentation of draft beer serving sizes in BC, the lack of enforcement of existing liquor policy that requires licensees to have a list available showing their available drinks—including the size and price of each, and our suggestions on how to better promote public health and safety while protecting consumers.
Unfortunately we do not believe that our concerns were adequately addressed and, judging from the response, you did not understand our concern for promoting public health and safety through our suggestion that policy be created to require marked glassware be used by all licensees when serving draft beer products.
It also appears by your response that the BC Liberal Government and the Justice Minister & Attorney General’s Offices are condoning the common practice of dishonest business practices with little or no sympathy for the draft beer consumers of our province.
CAMRA BC’s Fess Up to Serving Sizes (FUSS) Campaign has focused on one simple concept: that the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch actively enforce the existing BC liquor policy that requires all licensees to have a list of drinks available for consumers that explicitly states all drink sizes and prices. We have repeatedly pointed out that this policy is widely ignored, or that when serving sizes are declared by many licensees, those serving sizes are grossly inaccurate.
This has resulted in consumers being mislead and serving sizes misrepresented in this province for decades.
Other than your acknowledgement that there is policy in place, our points regarding serving size and price lists were ignored and rebuked with indifference, “If a customer is not pleased with the service in an establishment, they have the choice of raising the issue with the licensee or taking their business to other bars or restaurants.”
Our question to you, then, is this: If protecting consumers is not a priority to the BC Liberal Government in regards to ensuring liquor licensees are not cheating their customers by misrepresenting their serving sizes, why do you have a policy requiring a serving size and price list in the first place? What is the rationale behind this policy?
Now that there is a minimum price tied to volume for all alcoholic drinks, is it not paramount to the LCLB to know exactly how much beer is in a glass, or liquor in a shot? Is it not a priority to ensure licensees are not manipulating the price to their advantage, be that overcharging, by claiming glass sizes are bigger than they actually are, or undercharging, by stating glassware is actually smaller than it is? Is it not in the interest of public health and safety to ensure patrons can regulate exactly how much alcohol they are consuming?
Regarding your comments about marked glassware, your response makes no sense in relation to what we were suggesting. You stated, “It would be a burden for provincial liquor inspectors and police to measure glassware in addition to their other duties.” We contend this is the exact opposite of what should occur if you adopted our proposed marked glassware policy.
By requiring certified, marked glassware to be used, liquor inspectors would, in fact, not have to measure a single glass as the certifying agency has already done this and verified the volume of the glassware as such.
If you insist on pursuing some level of minimum pricing, consumer awareness of serving volumes are imperative and it makes no sense for the LCLB and their inspectors to be ignorant of precisely how much beer is in each glass. This will ensure licensees are not manipulating their drink prices to either cheat consumers or get around government mandated minimum drink prices.
We urge you to revisit our suggestions and concerns as we feel that they would create a win-win situation where the government can continue to promote public health and safety and ensure that LCLB policies are being adhered to while protecting consumers who have been cheated and ignored for decades in this province.
We would love to have the opportunity to sit down with yourself and representatives from the LCLB and Liberal Government to discuss these issues face-to-face. Our objective is promote public health and safety, which we highlighted in our original letter, while protecting consumers from unscrupulous or misinformed licensees and we believe our solutions would go a long way towards modernizing BC liquor policy.
We thank you for your time and consideration. We look forward to your response and setting up face-to-face meetings.
Campaign for Real Ale Society of British Columbia (CAMRA BC), Advocacy Committee
Maureen Blaseckie – President, CAMRA BC
Paddy Treavor – Powell River Branch President
Adam Chatburn – Vancouver Branch President
Chad McCarthy – Vancouver Branch Vice President