Booze expert ‘flabbergasted’ by delegation denial

SURREY – Bert Hick of Rising Tide Consultants wanted to make a case for earlier liquor service in the City of Surrey, but it looks like he won’t get a chance.

Hick requested to speak as a delegation to Surrey council to discuss the city’s policy on hours of operation for liquor primary licensed establishments. Hick wants the city to look at allowing liquor service to commence at 9 a.m. instead of 11 a.m. During Monday’s council meeting, Mayor Dianne Watts said she had “absolutely no interest” in hearing the delegation. Council as a whole then denied the speaker.

Hick founded Rising Tide Consultants Ltd. after serving 11 years with the B.C. government and has over 25 years of liquor licensing experience. Throughout Hick’s career with government, he held several key positions including the intergovernmental relations secretariat and general manager of the BC Liquor Control and Licensing Branch.

Hick said he is “somewhat flabbergasted” council doesn’t want to look at the issue.

“I wasn’t going on behalf of any client,” Hick said.

Rather, he was hoping to explain why some Surrey businesses are at a disadvantage because of the policy.

“If I play at a golf course in Vancouver, I can have champagne and orange juice at 9 o’clock in the morning with a buffet breakfast,” he said. “But in Surrey the liquor hours don’t start until 11 o’clock.”

If Hick was organizing a golf tournament and he had all the golf courses in the Lower Mainland to pick from, he might “think twice about doing it in Surrey.”

The city has a lot of licensed establishments, Hick said, and he believes earlier liquor hours would help those businesses get on a level playing field.

“It puts Surrey at a competitive disadvantage to other municipalities in the Lower Mainland where you can have 9 o’clock service of alcohol. That applies to golf courses, that applies to hotels, that applies to restaurants and so forth.”

Even if the City of Surrey was to change to allow earlier service, he said, the licenses still have to be approved on a case-by-case basis.

“The process would be that if an establishment wanted to change their hours for earlier hours, they would have to go and seek municipal approval. So the municipality could still require a public input process,” he said. “If there was a particular problematic establishment that was applying for this, they could say no because it’s located close to a school or a church, or close to residential, if it’s been a problematic establishment in terms of fights or whatever.”

Hick doesn’t understand why the municipality would say no.

“To me, it goes to the antiquated liquor laws we hear about. In this case, it’s not the province that has antiquated liquor laws, it’s Surrey.”

In 2004, council endorsed hours of operation for liquor primary establishments, which were 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day of the week for outdoor patios.

In 2012 council approved a change in hours for liquor service at the Fraser Downs Racetrack and Casino. Instead of opening at 11 a.m. on Sundays and at noon Monday through Saturday, the casino’s liquor primary license was amended to begin at 10 a.m. throughout the week’s entirety.