“It’s been a long time coming,” said Gordon Stewart, executive director of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia. “It’s a very good thing actually. We’ve been pushing this for a very long time.”
Effective Jan. 24, restaurant customers in Nova Scotia can now order up to two alcoholic drinks without ordering food. Before, customers had to order food to be served with an alcoholic drink or move to the restaurant’s designated lounge area, if one even existed. The change will apply only to restaurants that have a valid liquor licence.
"This change will allow licensed restaurants — especially those without a lounge space — to better meet the needs of their customers," said Mark Furey, Minister of Service Nova Scotia. "This is about helping restaurants stay competitive, while continuing to ensure the sale and consumption of alcohol is done in a safe and responsible way."
For Sydney chef and restaurant owner Ardon Mofford, it’s about time the rules changed.
“This is definitely a positive move — the laws were archaic compared to other parts of Canada,” said Mofford, owner of Governors Pub & Eatery.
Mofford said the law was especially difficult when dealing with cruise ship passengers and tourists from areas without that law who would sometimes order a drink before their meal and then change their mind about getting anything to eat. One time, a liquor inspector was in the restaurant when this happened, leading to an accusation that something illegal was happening.
“And all they’re doing is having a glass of wine,” said Mofford. “This (change) will definitely bring us in line with other parts of the country.”
Stewart said this was a common problem across the province, where tourists wouldn’t always understand why they couldn’t just order a drink in a restaurant.
“Basically what this does is bring us into line with what’s happening around the world — we’re one of the only provinces in Canada that has that rule,” said Stewart. “And people that travel, visitors from other parts of Canada, don’t understand that.
“Some of these regulations were written back in the 1930s and they’ve never really been updated so it’s really just a modernization of regulations that are just sitting out there and it just really makes more sense in the public eye.”
Stewart says some areas of the province have restaurants that only have dining room licences.
“You have to have a lounge licence in order to be able to serve alcohol without food,” said Stewart. “It’s roughly about 549 restaurants that don’t have a lounge licence so that really is going to affect somewhere around 50 per cent of our industry that’s going to have some impact on the positive side.”
This should also encourage more business for provincial restaurant owners.
"This will eliminate an unnecessary business barrier to allow restaurant operators to better serve their customers," said Luc Erjavec, vice-president Atlantic for Restaurants Canada. "Before this change, there were areas of this province where it was impossible for a customer to go into an establishment and order a drink.
"For some restaurant operators this change will also eliminate the need for a costly second liquor licence."
For customers like Joey Boutilier, it takes the pressure off deciding what to eat when waiting for friends to arrive at a restaurant.
“Many times I’ll go out to meet some of my friends and we go to have a drink and sometimes if we go to have something to eat, we don’t see each other for a bit because they show up late,” said Boutilier. “It’s nice to have a couple of drinks before they arrive so I think it’s a great idea for sure.
“It gives you a little more time before you order.”