Vancouver restaurants may have to list alcohol percentages on menus

The City of Vancouver wants restaurants and bars to start listing the alcohol percentages of drinks on their menus, but an industry group isn’t exactly toasting the idea.

Putting the info on menus is one of 32 recommendations from the recent Liquor Policy Review examining the city’s alcohol rules.  “Health experts agree that education, awareness and having alternatives to alcohol lead to better choices and can mitigate the impact of alcohol on individuals and communities,” the staff report read. “Knowing the size and strength of drinks can make it easier for patrons to monitor their alcohol consumption.”

But the president of the B.C. Restaurant and Food Services Association said the industry was not consulted about the recommendation and he opposes it.  “I think it’s pretty clear that people, by and large, understand that a wine is 12 per cent, a beer is five per cent and a spirit is 40 per cent,” Ian Tostenson told On The Coast guest host Gloria Macarenko. “Imagine a wine list with 50 or 100 wines. They’re suggesting each wine needs to have an alcohol content … the variation is very small.

“It’s kinda common sense and it really is a lot of red tape and regulation.”  Tostenson says mandating alcohol information on menus, along with the size of drinks, would be a costly change for many establishments and take up menu space.  He says the best way to judge how much alcohol has been consumed is to count the number of drinks and their sizes. Provincial rules already require bars and restaurants to inform patrons of the size of their drinks.  Tostenson says he has reached out to city hall about a compromise: his idea is to list the range of alcohol percentages at each establishment.

In response to Tostenson’s concerns, Vancouver Coun. Heather Deal defended the recommendation in an emailed statement.  “Drink strengths and sizes can widely vary and people ordering drinks need to know what they are getting — for instance beer can range from three to nine per cent alcohol,” read the statement.  Deal wrote the city’s new alcohol rules “look to strike a balance that grows and maintains a fun and vibrant nightlife while upholding public health and safety.”