Indie theatres weather the liquor license storm

Following months of struggle with British Columbia’s Liquor Control and Licensing Branch, the Rio Theatre in East Vancouver will gradually return to the mixed programming it cultivated before 2012. For most of this year, the Rio operated under an imposed liquor licensing condition that prevented the venue from showing films.

Although the single-screen venue expects to make a full recovery, owner Corinne Lea says her company is not out of the woods yet. “Because our finances got depleted so badly, our biggest challenge is just digging ourselves out of the hole,” Lea says. “Now we’re creeping back.”

AUDIO: Liquor laws relaxed for the Rio Theatre

At 9:00 a.m. on February 9th, B.C. Minister of Energy and Mines Rich Coleman announced that the province will now allow multi-use venues like the Rio to screen films outside liquor license hours.

“The change allows license holders to screen films and broadcast pay-per-view programs outside the hours outlined in their liquor license,” reads part of the press release. “License holders will still not be permitted to serve liquor during the screening of movies.”

B.C.’s five looniest liquor laws

The year is 1949. British reporter Noel Monks walks into the Hotel Vancouver and orders a pint. The barman turns him away — not because he’s intoxicated or even poorly dressed — Monks was bounced for standing on two feet.

The journalist later wrote Canada is “a tremendous, virile country… Yet you’ve apparently let yourselves be legislated into a state of adolescence when it comes to the use of alcohol.”

Monks had reason to be miffed. At the time, B.C.’s beer-serving establishments outlawed music, dancing, food of all kinds, unescorted women and standing upright with a beer. Wine or whisky weren’t on the menu, and mocking the rules by crawling from one table to the next was presumably more than frowned upon.