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Happy hour is back

Happy happy hour, British Columbia.

New liquor laws took effect Friday that allow bars and pubs to offer for the first time the popular time-limited drink specials.

BC was the only province in Canada that did not allow licensed bars and restaurants to change their prices during the course of a day.

Under the new rules, the minimum drink price is $3 for a single-ounce cocktail, a five-ounce glass of wine or a 12-ounce sleeve of beer.

"With happy hours up and running in BC, operators can cater to groups by offering drink specials for 'team nights,' for example, helping fill their seats on slow days or during not-so-busy times," Poma Dhaliwal, president of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees, said in a statement.

Other changes to provincial liquor laws include dropping the requirement for customers to order food with drinks in a licensed restaurant and allowing hosts with a special occasion licence to serve homemade and U-brew beer, wine or cider.

Government officials said the new rules balance industry needs with health and safety considerations. The minimum prices for happy-hour drinks were put in place to encourage responsible consumption, said a statement from the Justice Ministry.

"Allowing licensees, such as pubs, restaurants and lounges, to alter their liquor prices throughout the course of the day is a pocket-book friendly change for British Columbians that will help the industry attract customers at times when business may typically be slow," it said.

In January, the provincial government endorsed 73 recommendations in a report on BC liquor laws.

Those changes include increasing the variety of alcohol available at sporting events and allowing mixed-spirit drinks at music festivals and in sports venues. The province will also allow liquor sales at grocery stores.

So far, 14 of the 73 recommendations have been implemented. Government aims to have most in place by next spring.

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