Do I Need a Liquor Licence for a Private Party?

by | Feb 1, 2023

Do I Need a Liquor Licence for a Private Party?

If you’re hosting a private party outside your home in B.C., the choice of venue is always a big consideration. 

If the event’s mood is celebratory, chances are your guests will anticipate there being a bar.

Wherever alcohol is made available, you will require a Special Event Permit (SEP) for the day, whether you’re charging for drinks or not.

Just because you’ve booked a private venue doesn’t mean you can serve alcohol as you wish. Special permissions are required to host your event legally. And the onus is on you (the organizer) to follow the province’s regulations. 

Remember the Permit! 

Businesses selling alcohol require liquor licence. People wanting to distribute alcohol for a one-time event need a permit.

You must apply for the correct permit. Be sure to give yourself at least six weeks for your application to ensure you receive it in time.

Do I Really Need a Permit to Serve Alcohol?

In a word, yes.  

But it all depends on the location and the type of event you’re hosting.

If your private function is on public property (say, a city park), you’ll also require permission from the local authorities. In this scenario, you will need to contact the city directly. 

If you’re not sure if your location or event requires a special event licence, you’ll want to check the official website of the government of B.C. to make sure. 

Rather than go through every situation where a permit is needed, it’s probably quicker to understand the types of events that are exempt. 

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As long as no alcohol is sold, the following gatherings don’t require permission:

  • Events at private residences, including parties in common rooms in strata buildings
  • Private parties at a place of business (after hours) attended by the employer, staff and their guests (as long as it’s not a licensed venue)

When in Doubt, Always Double-Check 

Sky Hangar in Pitt Meadows is an excellent location for all kinds of gatherings. But, because it is also an aviation facility, it is not a licensed venue. Therefore a Special Event Permit (SEP) is required. This permit is something only the host organizer can apply for, so don’t expect an unlicensed venue to handle this for you. 

Some bartending and catering companies may obtain a different liquor licence on your behalf, but again, you need to find out if this is a service they provide.

Protect Yourself 

To be in full compliance with B.C.’s liquor laws, you need to identify the exact type of event you are holding and where it is being held. Some venues (like Sky Hangar) require that you also obtain liability insurance for the duration of your event. As an event organizer, it’s never wise to make assumptions. Most venues will tell you precisely what they offer and what the expectations are from you. 

If you’re in charge of a party where alcohol is available, you need to be vigilant in doing everything “by the book.” You can do so by checking the SEP policy manual.

What Happens If I Don’t Have a Permit?

If you forgo applying, you’re taking a big risk.  

Failure to comply with B.C.’s liquor laws and regulations could result in fines worth thousands of dollars. The standard application fee is about $25. It’s a minimal expense for peace of mind.  If you’re looking for a fantastic event venue, Sky Hangar is available to answer all your questions. 


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