March 24, 2020

Dear ABLE BC Members and Industry Colleagues, 

The COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve rapidly and we’re working hard to get answers for you.

Included in today’s email:

  • LDB Update: not accepting returns and intermittent product delays
  • New sign: social distancing
  • Update: Ontario and Quebec order closure of all non-essential businesses
  • LCRB cancelling Special Event Permits for all events
  • Update: liquor primary access to BDC funding
  • Two significant changes to Employment Standards Act
  • City of Vancouver: Changes from Special Council Meeting on March 23 
  • New resources and tools for your business
  • Upcoming free webinars: tourism marketing, managing stress and mental health during COVID-19, cash flow strategies and government incentives

Please continue to send your questions by email to ABLE BC: or

Find all past updates from ABLE BC here.

LDB Updates

BC Liquor Stores continue to operate across the province, with the exception of some stores in smaller communities who are experiencing staffing issues. You can find current BC Liquor Store hours here.

Temporarily Not Accepting Returns 

Effective immediately, BC Liquor Stores will no longer accept customer (hospitality and retail) returns. Distribution Centres will continue to enforce their current return policies. 

The LDB understands this will negatively impact some customers. Please note this is a necessary but temporary measure the LDB is taking proactively to protect the overall supply-chain. They will consider returns when they are better able to facilitate the return processes.

Corrected: Intermittent Product Delivery Delays

Licensees may experience intermittent product delivery delays over the coming days. Please see below a full update from the LDB:

Wholesale Operations is working hard to respond to the challenges presented by the evolving situation with COVID-19. We are focused on protecting our supply chain and supporting our industry partners.

Due to unprecedented demand, the current strain on labour resources, and the constraints on logistics, we are unable to meet our standard delivery service levels. As a result, many of our Wholesale customers will experience delays in order delivery.  

The Wholesale Customer Centre will make every effort to communicate these changes to you in a timely manner to minimize the impacts to your business. 

Wholesale Operations is committed to remaining open for business to ensure the best outcomes for your operations, and thanks you for your continued patience as we navigate this rapidly changing situation.

On behalf of industry, ABLE BC commends the LDB for their relentless efforts to keep our your businesses supplied doing during this public health emergency. We are in touch with them daily on the best ways to move forward and protect the overall supply-chain. We understand these changes will be inconvenient to some members, but our priority remains ensuring the entire industry is able to keep getting products.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact ABLE BC’s Executive Director Jeff Guignard:

New sign: social distancing 

Download a sign to post in your establishment asking customers to stay 1-2 metres apart from each other and practice social distancing.

Other precautions to take in your establishment: 

  • When customers are lining up, ask that they keep a 1-2 metre distance from the people ahead and behind them. Some retailers, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, have put temporary markings on the floor to indicate where customers should stand in line. We encourage you to do the same.
  • Strictly limit the number of patrons inside your store to allow for social distancing (note: the current provincial health officer order prohibits you from having more than 50 people in your establishment, including staff, at one time).

Download for free all COVID-19 we have created in our online store.

Please send any other signage requests to Danielle:

Update: Ontario and Quebec order closure of all non-essential businesses

As we shared in yesterday’s update, Quebec and Ontario both ordered the closure of all non-essential workplaces. The closures are set to begin at 11:59 p.m. ET Tuesday. 

Ontario has now made available a list all essential services that will remain open during the closure. 

Included in Ontario’s list of essential services: 

  • Beer, wine and liquor stores and alcohol producers, and stores that sell beer and wine through arrangements with authorized providers; cannabis stores and cannabis producers
  • Restaurants and other food facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for delivery or takeaway, together with food delivery services
  • Hotels, motels, shared rental units and similar facilities, including student residences
  • Businesses that farm, harvest, process, manufacture, produce or distribute food, including beverages, crops, animal products and by-products, aquaculture, hunting and fishing

Liquor and cannabis stores will also remain open in Quebec during the closure of non-essential businesses.

As stated yesterday, ABLE BC is doing everything we can to keep liquor stores and other liquor licensees open, if the BC government orders the closure of all non-essential businesses. 

We are contacting the Attorney General and offices of the Premier and Prime Minister to request that the following businesses be deemed essential: liquor stores, cannabis retailers, rural agency stores, on-premise facilities (operating in accordance with the Provincial Health Officer’s order), and liquor manufacturers (many of whom are currently producing free hand sanitizer). We have engaged McMillan LLP to assist us in this matter.

Government has made clear so far that they do not plan to close liquor stores. Yesterday, Premier Horgan stated BC currently has no plans to implement a provincial shutdown of services. 

We are also encouraged by the actions in Ontario and Quebec and continue to engage with government on a daily basis on this matter. ABLE BC will provide urgent updates as soon as they are available.

LCRB Special Event Permits cancelled for all events

In light of the growing COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing public health orders, the LCRB is cancelling special event permits for all events, effective immediately. 

We will circulate a copy of the policy document, detailing these cancellations, when it is available.

Update: Liquor Primary access to BDC funding

As discussed in previous updates, ABLE BC is aware that the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) has restrictions in place against providing loans to Liquor Primaries. These restrictions are illogical and need to be eliminated immediately.

We have engaged directly with contacts in the Prime Minister’s Office and written to the minister responsible to request an urgent change in this policy, in order to allow liquor primaries access to BDC’s programs. 

For your reference: download a copy of the letter sent to Minister Freeland

We are still waiting for movement on this, but the Minister is keenly aware of the issue and we understand government is working on it. We will share updates with you as soon as possible. Thank you to Shea Coulson (McMillan LLP) for his urgent support in this matter.

Two Significant Changes to Employment Standards Act 

Yesterday, the Province announced it has made two significant changes to the Employment Standards Act “to better support workers both during the COVID-19 public health emergency and in the long term.”

Change No. 1: allow workers to immediately take unpaid, job-protected 
leave if they are unable to work for reasons relating to COVID-19. This means workers who are ill, need to self-isolate, need to care for their child or other dependent, or whose employer is concerned that the employee may expose others to risk, will be able to take leave without putting their job at risk.

The leave will be retroactive to January 27, 2020, the date that the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in B.C. During this public health emergency, people can take this job-protected leave for as long as the circumstance that requires them to be away from work applies.  

As with other job leaves, workers may need to give reasonable evidence of eligibility if their employer requests it, but a doctor’s note will not be required.

Change No. 2: provide up to three days of unpaid, job-protected leave each year for people who cannot work due to illness or injury. This is a permanent change to the act that brings BC in line with all other provinces in Canada.

While on job-protected leave related to the COVID-19 crisis, workers may also be eligible for financial support through expanded Employment Insurance benefits through the federal government.

To qualify, people must have worked for their employer for at least 90 days. As with other job leaves, workers may need to give reasonable evidence of eligibility if their employer requests it, including a doctor’s note.

Read the full news release. Find a detailed backgrounder for these changes at the bottom of the news release.

City of Vancouver: changes from Special City Council meeting on March 23

On March 23, 2020, the City of Vancouver held a Special Council meeting to vote on enhanced enforcement of By-law No. 12661, ‘a By-law to declare a State of Emergency in Vancouver.’

Council also voted on enacting two amending by-laws that will enhance the City’s authority to enforce By-law No. 12661:

  • Make it an offence to fail to comply with an oder under By-law No. 12261, allow enforcement orders to be issued under that By-law, and to make any offence committed under that By-law publishable by a fine of up to $50,000
  • Allow enforcement officers to enforce By-law No. 12261 by issuing a municipal ticket. The tickets can reach a maximum fine of $1,000.

All motions were carried. Read a copy of the meeting minutes.

What this means for you: businesses in the City of Vancouver that do not comply with orders from the Provincial Health Officer or the City of Vancouver could be fined up to $50,000. 

Individuals who do not comply with orders could be fined up to $1,000. 

New Resources and Tools for your Business: 

New resources, tools, and other content are being created at a rapid rate to support businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Here are some helpful links we have recently come across:

  • Facebook Small Business Grants Program: Facebook is offering $100 million in cash grants and ad credits for up to 30,000 eligible small businesses in over 30 countries where they operate. They will begin taking applications in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can sign up to receive more information when it becomes available.
  • WorkSafeBC: What employers should do to help prevent the spread of COVID-19
  • Small Business BC: resources for small businesses affected by COVID-19
  • go2HR: legal information on layoffs and group terminations during COVID-19
  • Financial Support available for Businesses: we have received a number of questions from members on what financial support is currently available to you. We understand the announcements are hard to keep track of and are working on a more comprehensive summary. It’s also important to note that, while the provincial and federal governments have announced their economic response plans, guidelines on how to apply for funding are not yet available. In the meantime here are some helpful links:  
  • COVID Business Assessment Tool: COVID-19 resources and whether your business can qualify for funding have been very difficult for companies to navigate. Use this simple online tool to answer: 
    • Where can I get funding for my business?
    • Which government resources are actually applicable to my company?
    • What programs should I be looking at now and which ones later?
    • How do I choose the best option for my staff with my business being impacted by COVID?

Upcoming Webinars

Junction Consulting: Travel and Tourism Marketing 

Past BC Liquor Conference and BC Hospitality Summit speaker Connor Galway (Junction Consulting) is hosting a free live-stream conversation on Thursday, March 26 at 3:00 pm PST. He will be discussing marketing during a crisis for the travel and tourism industry.

Sign-up and learn more here.

Restaurants Canada: Managing Stress and Mental Health During COVID-19

Our industry partner Restaurants Canada is hosting a free webinar on Thursday, March 26 from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm ET about managing stress and mental health during COVID-19.

As operations focus solely delivery or takeout or in some cases, make the decision to close their doors for business, anxiety, stress, financial concerns, isolation, and uncertainty can take a toll on the physical and mental well-being of those affected.

This webinar will summarize the latest impact of coronavirus on the Canadian foodservice industry’s wellness and facilitate discussion between a diverse panel of experts who will share their insights on controlling stress and preserving mental health in this shifting landscape.

This webinar will provide insights into:

  • Understanding how the mental health of employees and operators alike may be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Actionable advice on how to combat stress and anxiety
  • Knowing what government programs have been announced to help alleviate the stress caused by COVID-19

Sign-up and learn more here.

BDO Canada: Cash Flow Strategies and Government Incentives in the time of COVID-19

Our associate member BDO Canada is hosting a free webinar on Thursday, March 26 from 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm ET about cash flow strategies and government incentives.

This webinar offers immediate steps you can take to manage your cash flow during this challenging time. Focusing on tax measures and government programs, it is designed to help you uncover the liquidity options hidden in your business.

You will learn:  

  • How to choose the right government programs to support your business
  • How to lower your income tax instalments

Learn more and register here.

For more information:

Public Health Agency of Canada Website

Updates from the Government of British Columbia

Updates and Resources from ABLE BC

If you have any other questions or concerns, please contact ABLE BC:
604-688-5560 or

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