Who can drink?

Put simply, the legal drinking age in B.C. is 19 and anyone under that age is considered a ‘minor’ under the law. Underage drinking can be dangerous for teens, both for their health and safety. When minors drink, the risk of their involvement in a vehicle crash, a sexual assault or a physical altercation increases significantly. Early initiation of regular drinking and intoxication in early adolescence is associated with elevated levels of alcohol use, alcohol dependence, early binge drinking and social problems in adulthood.

Check out some of the laws in B.C. aimed at preventing young people from drinking:

  • It’s against the law to purchase liquor for, or to give liquor to a minor.
  • If minors are caught with liquor in their possession, if they try to buy liquor, if they are found inside a bar or pub, or if they try to buy liquor using false ID, they can receive a $230 fine.
  • You may not sell or give liquor to a minor, or permit a minor to drink liquor in your home or business (there is one exception to this, see below). The fine for doing this is a minimum of $500, and you may also be held legally responsible for any damages or injury caused as a result.
  • If you are a parent, guardian or spouse of a minor you may provide liquor only to your child or minor spouse in the privacy of your home. This exception does not allow you to provide liquor to any other minors who may be in your home.

While alcohol is strictly prohibited for people under the age of 19, there are also restrictions on adults. For example, a restaurant, pub or bar cannot serve an intoxicated person more alcohol. If they do, they can face fines or even the suspension of their liquor licence.

Minors ARE allowed into some liquor-primary licensed establishments, under certain conditions. For example, minors can be in the licensed area of a curling club, golf course facility, stadium, or recreation centre, if approved by the general manager. For more exceptions, click here.  

Minors are allowed in private liquor stores, but only if the parent/guardian accompanying them is shopping. However, minors can never work in these stores. Minors are also allowed in food-primary establishments on their own, and in restaurant lounges if accompanied by an adult. They can work in these restaurants, serving food or as professional entertainers. Minors can bring liquor to a patron’s table but can’t be in charge of the bar or open or mix liquor.

The B.C. Government has a “Minors as Agents” program that works to help prevent the sale of liquor to minors. In the first year of the program, 351 private liquor stores and 98 government liquor stores were tested with overall compliance rate of 87 per cent. B.C. is the first province to hire minors to test alcohol sales compliance. Restaurants and special occasion licensed events are now being tested as part of the program.

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