By: Korie Marshall
Bar and food sales are a major source of funding for Legions in BC, and now, thanks to recent changes to BC’s liquor laws, kids will be able to join their families at many legion branches across the province, including Valemount.
Pete Pearson, President of Branch 266 in Valemount says the branch has been approved to have children in the Legion while the kitchen is open, such as Friday burger nights. He says they are looking for a cook for the winter season, and hope to expand kitchen hours.
The provincial government announced in June that liquor-primary establishments may now apply to accommodate minors – a change that reflects modern societal values such as the opportunity for families to have brunch at a local pub or a meal together at the Legion. Establishments that wish to keep their current business model is free to do so if they choose.
“BC’s Legion branches are thrilled to have the option to offer safe, family-friendly environments where legion members can celebrate special occasions with kids in a history-rich environment, to connect as a family, and as a community,” said Angus Stanfield, Royal Canadian Legion BC/Yukon Command president in a government press release in June.
Most of the province’s 152 Legion branches are licensed as “Liquor Club Primary” which did not permit minors in the past. When the government started its review of review of liquor licenses last year, Legions and the public said it was onerous and complex to get a Special Occasion License. Children were only allowed in BC Legion lounges under very specific circumstances, such as Remembrance Day.
“Society is changing,” Terri Dammann, Valemount Legion Vice President and Deputy Zone Commander, told the Goat last year. “It used to be that Vets would come here to forget their problems. Now they want to fix them.”
Allowing the Legion to increase their revenue would increase the work they do to support local veterans, and the community as a whole.
“A lot of Legions will close if we don’t get this change,” said Dammann.
Dennis Rejman, Secretary Treasurer for the McBride Branch (75), says they haven’t applied for any changes because children are already allowed inside because they have a different license. Rejman says they apply for a Special Use permit for special events where liquor is served, and those allow children as well.
In late August, the Port Coquitlam branch was the first to get approval for the new endorsement to allow minors.
The Royal Canadian Legion’s BC/Yukon Command had also been lobbying to be able to sublet their kitchen and catering services, something that was not allowed under the old liquor laws. Legion kitchens have traditionally been staffed by the Ladies Auxiliary and other volunteers, but the Ladies Auxiliary is non-existent in many branches. The Legion sees an opportunity in being able to provide food service during its regular hours of operation and for special events, but running a kitchen is a serious and time intensive endeavour, which is no longer feasibly done with volunteers, they say. Allowing branches to sublet their kitchen services could mean job creation, increased revenue for local economies and the provincial government, and improved responsibility by consistently having food service available to patrons, Legions argue.
BC/Yukon Command’s submission to the government review noted a common misconception that Legion branches are in competition with local restaurants, businesses and clubs. It said the Legion exists for the very purpose of reinvesting in the community.
Seventeen of the 73 Liqour Policy Review recommendations have been implemented by June, 2014. The government’s goal is to implement 70 per cent of the recommendations by spring 2015.