Special event permittee resources and information

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What is a Special Event Permit?

A Special Event Permit (SEP) is for any individual, organization or business that sells or serves liquor in any location that is not a

  • Private residence
  • Private place
  • Licensed establishment

A SEP may be issued to a licensed establishment that has temporarily suspended its liquor licence for an event.

Selling liquor includes direct and indirect charges for the liquor

  • For example, including a serving of liquor in the price of an event's admission

Visit the Apply for a Special Event Permit page to apply.

Permit holders are encouraged to review the following resources for detailed information about SEPs:

Events that require a SEP

There are two types of Special Event Permits: one for private special events and one for public special events.

Private special events

Private special events are events that will be attended by

  • invited guests
  • members and staff of an organization
  • persons to whom advance tickets have been given or sold 

Tickets for private special events must not be sold at the door. 

Public special events

Anyone may attend a public special event. Events are considered public if they are held in a place open to the public. 

An event where advance tickets have been given or sold and the availability of liquor is being advertised (whether directly or indirectly such as a picture of a wine glass, etc. and/or liquor is in the name of the event) is a public event.

A family event is a private special event attended by family and friends only (not open to the public), hosted by a family member or a friend of the family, to celebrate an aspect of family life.

A family event can include

  • weddings
  • anniversaries
  • birthdays
  • retirements
  • memorial receptions

Pre-wedding parties of any kind commonly known as bachelor and bachelorette parties (e.g., stags and stagettes) are eligible for a Special Event Permit.

Organizations may be allowed to sell liquor at a profit provided all proceeds (remaining revenues, once costs have been recovered) are directed to a non-profit organization whose primary purpose is to carry out charitable purposes.

The recipient of any funds raised by the event must be a non-profit organization whose primary function is to undertake charitable purposes as defined in the Liquor Control and Licensing Act, and any funds given to such an organization must be used for charitable purposes. However, the recipient organization does not have to be a registered charity.

The hobbyist competition is a subcategory of the private SEP. If you hold a hobbyist competition you may serve tastings of the wine, beer or cider entered into the competition to other participants and judges. You may not charge for tasting or for entry into the event.

Participants could be charged a cost recovery fee to enter their product for judging. Sample sizes are limited (4 ounces for beer and cider and 2 ounces for wine).

Municipally significant events are those deemed uniquely significant to the municipality alone. This type of event may have historical value specific to the region or benefit the community at large. Municipally significant events must be designated as such through a municipal resolution. Events of municipal significance may require a SEP if there is a liquor service planned.

The LCRB will determine events of a provincial, national, or international significance on a case-by-case basis provided it meets the following criteria:

  • participants or performers at your event are primarily from the province, Canada, or around the world
  • your event attracts spectators from around the province, Canada, or around the world
  • there is provincial, national, or world-wide media coverage of your event

These events may require a SEP if there is a liquor service planned.

For all other events, a club, society, company or other type of organization must apply for the SEP and be the host of the event. The representative of the organization applying for the SEP may be asked for proof of authority to complete the application for the host organization.

Organizations may apply for a SEP for events they are hosting. In most cases the organization hosting the event will be responsible for liquor service.

The two exceptions are for family events and for events held by unincorporated organizations (such as sports teams and unregistered community groups). For these organizations the representative (an individual) will be the permittee who must take responsibility for the liquor service at the event.

Promoters and event organizers, as businesses, can apply for a SEP. They will be responsible for liquor service at the event, including any contraventions that may occur.

Liquor tasting events require a SEP. Any non-profit organization or business is eligible to host a tasting event.

Tasting sizes are limited to smaller sizes than at normal SEP events.

Size limits are:

  • 4 ounces for beer, ciders and coolers.
  • 2 ounces for wine.
  • ½ ounce for spirits.

Hosts can charge per drink or charge for tokens or tickets that may be exchanged for drinks.

All liquor must be purchased by the SEP holder before the event start

Event organizers hired to plan and manage a special event may apply for a SEP on behalf of a business or organization. As the permit holder, event organizers are responsible for liquor service at the event.

 

Events that do not require a SEP

Events at private residences do not require a Special Event Permit. This is because police and government officials are unable to inspect liquor permits if they are issued in a residence.

Areas that are part of a residence, such as a common room in a strata complex, are considered private residences.

You can serve liquor without a permit in a private residence; however, liquor cannot be sold and a permit cannot be issued. You can hire a commercial caterer to provide liquor service under different licensing regulations, but the sale of liquor to guests remains prohibited.

Please note: Any part of a building that is not occupied as a private or vacation dwelling is not considered a “residence”.

For more information, review the Special Event Permit Policy Manual.

A SEP is not required for a private party at a business which is not regularly licensed if the party is held when the business is closed and if there is no charge to attend or charge for liquor. The party must be restricted to the employer or the business owner and employees and their guests

A SEP is not required for a staff party if the party is held in a closed office or business that is not regularly licensed.

The party must be restricted to the owners or employers, employees and their guests and liquor may only be served but not sold. If the business premise is a regularly licensed establishment, then a SEP will be required unless the event meets the terms and conditions of the licence.

 

Events on public property

You are responsible for checking in advance to ensure that you have your local authorities’ permission to use their facilities or properties for liquor service. Your application will be denied if you don't get the correct local approvals for an event on municipal property.

The LCRB will work with you and with local authorities to determine whether approval can be granted. This may include adding approval conditions that were not part of the original permit application, or that change or restrict the permit.

In some cases, local approvals cannot be granted, and it is not possible to continue with an event. In those cases, a permit would be suspended or cancelled. No fee refunds are provided for cancelled permits, but PST prepayment may be refunded by the Ministry of Finance.

For more information about PST adjustments visit:http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/taxes/sales-taxes/publications/pst-300-special-event-liquor-permits.pdf or call 1-877-388-4440.

Local governments and First Nations may receive a copy of SEPs issued in their jurisdictions, if they wish. Information regarding SEPs issued in an area is also available to local police.

For further information on local authority requirements, contact the local authority for the property or facility directly. 

Exemptions

Exemptions are required when an application requests permission to operate outside normal LCRB policies. There is no fee charged for reviewing an exemption request. If your application requires an exemption your application must be submitted no later than 14 days prior to your event start date. Submitting your SEP application 30 days in advance is strongly suggested.

An exemption can grant the applicant with permission to do one of the following:                                                                                                                                                                            

  • Hold more than three SEPs per month or more than 24 per year,
  • Extend the hours of a special event beyond 10 pm for outdoor events or 2 am for indoor events,
  • Charge more for drinks than the prices specified in the liquor price schedule, and/or
  • Make profit from events of municipal, provincial, national, or international significance.

Extension of Hours

Permitted hours for all special occasion events are:

  • Indoor events: 9 am – 2 am the following day

  • Outdoor events: 9 am – 10 pm the same day

Applications requesting to extend the hours for a special event beyond permitted hours must provide a reason for the request and explain strategies that will be implemented to prevent disturbing the nearby community.

Maximum number of SEPs

LCRB policy generally limits an applicant to 3 SEPs per month or 24 in one year.

In some cases, an applicant may be allowed to apply for more frequent SEPs if it is in the public interest and if SEPs are not being used in a manner that is more appropriate for a permanent liquor permit.

Charging more for drinks

B.C.’s liquor laws do not allow SEPs to be used for personal or commercial profit unless the event is for charitable purposes or of municipal, provincial, national, or international significance. As a result, drink prices at SEP events are limited to ensure that liquor sales are used for cost recovery. Only events for charitable purposes or events of municipal, provincial, or international significance may request to charge above the cost recovery price.

Wine may be sold for more than $7.00 per drink if reasons are provided and approved by the LCRB for the need to raise drink prices above the schedule maximums. Those requests will also be reviewed by LCRB’s licensing division.

Municipal, provincial, national, or internationally significant events

Municipally significant events are determined by the municipality through a resolution; however, the LCRB will review the exemption request.

Provincial, national, or internationally significant events are determined by the LCRB on a case-by-case basis provided it meets the following criteria:

  • Participants or performers are primarily from the province, Canada, or around the world
  • Your event attracts spectators from around the province, Canada, or around the world
  • There is provincial, national or world-wide media coverage at your event

If the event is designated a municipal, provincial, national, or internationally significant event, the permittee may charge above the cost recovery price list and make a profit from the event. There is no revenue report requirement.

Your Responsibilities

Controlling your event

The area in which you will be serving liquor must be surrounded by a barrier that will limit the sale, service and consumption of liquor to that area.

For more information, see ‘controlling your event’ and ‘security’ in the terms and conditions handbook.

Maximum attendance

The maximum attendance for your event is listed on your special event permit

You must also confirm the occupant load of your venue:

  • If you are renting a private space, contact the owner or landlord to confirm the occupant load
  • If you are renting a public space, contact the municipality or fire department to confirm the occupant load for the venue.

If the maximum attendance limit on your permit is different from your occupant load, you must not exceed the lower of the two numbers.

For more information, see ‘overcrowding’ in the terms and conditions handbook.

Minors

You must ensure that liquor is not served to minors and have policies in place to meet this responsibility.

For more information, see ‘minors’ in the terms and conditions handbook.

Event safety

It is your responsibility to ensure that

  • Guests do not become intoxicated at the event site
  • No one is harmed because of liquor misuse or criminal activity
  • The permit holder is present during liquor service hours
  • Liquor is served only within the hours indicated on the permit

You must take reasonable measures to prevent disorderly conduct or unlawful activities at your event. You must also ensure the event does not disturb people near the event site.

If your event poses a safety threat, the liquor inspector or police can cancel your permit and order the immediate removal of guests.

You can find more information about assigning a designate permit holder in the section your presence’ in the terms and conditions handbook.

You must ensure that liquor is not served to minors and have policies in place to meet this responsibility.

For more information, see ‘minors’ in the terms and conditions handbook.

Learn more about your responsibilities in the Special Event Permit Policy Manual and terms and conditions handbook.

Refunds and cancellations

You can withdraw a pending application if its status is “Pending Review” or “Pending Payment”. Go to your Applications dashboard and select the event you wish to withdraw. Within your application, you will see a withdraw button. Once you withdraw an application it will no longer be eligible for approval and a permit for your event will not be issued. You will not be charged an application fee.

Cancelling an approved permit

Once your permit is issued you will not be able to cancel it. You may choose not to use your permit; however, please note that permit fees for an approved event are non-refundable.

More information and resources

Types of liquor

All types of liquor may be sold or served at private special events with the exception of UBrew and UVin. UBrew and UVin products may be served (but not sold) at an event licensed under a family or hobbyist competition SEP.

For public special events, permittees may sell beer, wine, cider, coolers and spirits, but not spirits designed for rapid consumption (i.e., shooters).

The service of shooters has been shown to carry higher risk of over-consumption and rapid intoxication than other kinds of alcoholic beverages. In the interest of public safety, the service of shooters at public special events are not permitted.

Purchasing liquor

All liquor sold or served at a SEP event must be purchased from one of the following:

  • BC Liquor Stores
  • B.C. winery, brewery, or distillery with an on-site store
  • Licensee Retail Store
  • Wine Store
  • Special Wine Store
  • Rural Licensee Retail Store

As a permittee you cannot permit guests to bring their own liquor to the special events. Bring your own liquor (“BYOB”) events cannot be licensed.

Breweries

Permittees can purchase kegs of beer and beer products directly from B.C. breweries.

Donated liquor

Permittees may serve liquor that has been donated under the following conditions:

  • It was donated by a licensed liquor manufacturer or agent
  • The event’s purpose is to raise funds for a charitable purpose

Only charities and non-profit organizations hosting an event to raise funds for a charitable purpose may receive donated liquor from an agent or manufacturer.

UBrew/UVin and homemade liquor products at weddings

UBrew, UVin and homemade liquor products may be served (but not sold) at an event licensed under a family SEP. A wedding meets the criteria for a family special event.

Private liquor collections

Permittees may not provide liquor from a private collection to be served by the glass or as samples to guests.

Liquor quantities

You must encourage moderate consumption at all times and follow the maximum serving sizes permitted for SEP events.

To help prevent over service and intoxication of patrons and guests, limits are imposed on the amount of liquor that can be served at one time. Standard drink serving sizes permitted are:

  • 340 ml (12 ounce) cans or bottles for beer, cider or coolers
  • 12 ounces for draught beer, cider or coolers
  • 5 ounces for individual glasses of wine
  • 1.5 ounce for spirits

Serving liquor

On your SEP application, you will be asked to describe the area where liquor will be sold, served or consumed (liquor service area). Once approved, that designated area is the only area that is licensed for the service of liquor.

If your event is outside or is using only part of a large building or hall, the liquor service area must be enclosed by a barrier sufficient to confine the sale, service and consumption of liquor to the specified area.

More information

Read the SEP Policy Manual (PDF, 457.1KB) and SEP Terms and Conditions Handbook (PDF, 293KB) for more information about

  • Liquor returns
  • Suggested servings
  • Drink prices
  • Charitable proceeds
  • Maximum drink prices
  • Consular privilege
  • Provincial sales tax
  • Final costs
  • Charging GST
  • And more