X – Government Stuff

There is lots to be done with Government, and to be honest, I have only gone through part of the process.  That doesn’t make me an expert, rather just someone who has a little experience of the total package that I need to endure.  Here is what I know:

1.  Development Permit:  This is the first thing you need to get for most spaces.  The timeframe is 12-14 weeks, but that entirely depends on the time of the year and workload of the staff at the City.  I would be interested to know what other jurisdictions in Canada and the US estimate as the time needed for something like this.  Cost is about $6,500 so it is not cheap, and you need to have a lot of work complete with an architect.  Best case scenario is that you don’t need to apply for one of these.   In Vancouver that would mean an M2 zone, but that can be a bit of a challenge.  So likely you will need to go through this.

It is the point in the process of looking for a space where it gets expensive, and you start making guesstimates on how it will go.  If you think you have a space that would get approved, then go for it.  If you guess wrong, you could be out of pocket about $8,000 …. so its an expensive mistake.  I don’t know about you, but I am too old for another learning experience, and there is far too much on the line.

The process would be something like this (assuming all checks out):

  • Find a space that you like and has potential
  • Visit the space and see what it looks like online
  • Make sure you tell the Listing Realtor and owner that you plan on putting a brewery in …. some don’t want a brewery
  • Review key attributes of space like electrical, structural, sprinklers, etc.
  • Go to City of Vancouver and ask one of the clerks for information on the space, zoning, past use, future use, etc
  • Engage with your architect and contractor and ask them some initial questions
  • Book a second showing for a more detailed dive.  Bring along architect and contractor, along with other sub trades that may be able to help you understand key areas that you have questions about (for example elevator guy, slab specialist, sprinkler installer, etc).
  • If all checks out, have your architect do a code review to identify all the problems that could come up
  • If you feel good about things, make offer, and try to get your deal subject to applying for a development permit.  This will be a tough one to try and get through, but there is no harm in trying.

So this process I just described is going to cost you some money for an architect to spend time looking at the space.  Also, getting other trades in could potentially cost money.  If after all this you agree to a contract with the owner, you then have to apply for a Development permit.  It will take about 3-4 weeks if you are lucky for an architect to gather all the information they need, create drawings for submission and apply for your permit.  Once you apply, expect to wait anywhere from 12-16 weeks for your development permit.

2.  Building Permit:  As soon as you apply for a development permit, there is another role of the dice.  If you are confident you are going to get your Development Permit, then you immediately have your architect start working on your Building Permit submission.  This will take the entire 12-16 weeks you are waiting.

You can see your all-moment here, and it goes like this.  If you don’t start working on your building permit submission, you will potentially get your development permit and then take another 12 weeks for your building permit plans to be complete.  That is 12 weeks of paying a lease that you are doing nothing to move the space forward.  On the flip side, if you do all the work with a building permit, and then you don’t get your Development Permit, you have spent a boat load of time and money on basically nothing.  At the end of the day, this is the reason getting all the information you can up front is so important.  It is also the reason why looking for an M2 Commercial zone in Vancouver is so useful.  There is no DP required.

So the details with submission for Building Permit are greater and more comprehensive versus DP.  You need to engage with other professionals and spend more money and time.  The total time required is about 12-14 weeks, but that is not always the case.  I would suggest you speak with Bomber Brewing on this one.  Evidently there is a way to get your building permit much quicker than we expect to get ours.  It involves some sort of retrofit versus complete build out as we are doing.  I am very murky on the details, but I know for us it wouldn’t have worked.

We are still waiting for our building permit, and within a week we will run out of things to do.  We took possession of our space on February 1st, and we have been busy removing Asbestos, setting up a temporary site office, having trades come in and give us quotes, demolishing the space, etc.  We are hoping that our stars align, but it takes some good planning and lots of luck for it all to come together in a simplistic fashion.

3.  Manufacturers Licence:  Once you have received your Development Permit, you will need to apply for your Manufacturers Licence.  This is done through the BC Government.  You can head to this website to find all the forms that you need to fill out and the contact information.  Click here for the link.  Let me take you through some key learnings and also our experience so far, which is not yet complete.

For starters, play nice.  They are the only game in town and if you rub these people the wrong way, you can have delays which will not serve the interests of your business very well.  Essentially, if they don’t give you a manufacturers licence, you will never be able to produce beer.  Depending on where you are in the Province of BC, there are different people to speak with.  For us in Vancouver we dealt with one contact in particular.  If you are unsure of who you need to be speaking with, just call the toll free number and they will point you in the right direction.

When were first researching this, we were told about $1,000 in total for a manufacturers licence and lounge endorsement, and then about $1,000 yearly in fees.  So put this into your budget, but know that there will be ancillary costs associated with this bucket, like postage, architectural fees, time and effort and a few odds and ends.

I would make sure that your architect knows you will want their help on applying for this, and include the associated work in any scope of work you sign with them at the start of your relationship.  This will save you time and money on your process.  I couldn’t imagine not having the support and help of an architect on applying or this.  They will be able to help you navigate the myriad of forks in the road with greater ease.

As far as timeline is concerned, it will take a while start to finish.  Let me highlight the process for you from our perspective.  In terms of timeline, it took us about 3 weeks to prepare the application, and you will need to have many of your back end items in order.  If you look at the application, you will need Criminal record checks for any owners, a full share registry, a business plan, site and situation drawings of the space, along with photos and a few other things.

  • We started putting together our application in November 2013
  • We applied for our Manufacturers licence in December of 2013
  • At the very end of February 2014 we received a response from Liquor Control and Licensing stating we needed to make a few amendments
  • In March of 2014 we responded with the required changes
  • In May of 2014 we heard back regarding our application, with further changes that they would like to see
  • June 2014 we received unofficial confirmation that things were good, and we only needed to show them that we installed everything we identified on the drawings to be good to go.
  • November 2014, after all our equipment was in place, we finally received permission to brew beer.  12 months total!

I only highlight the time frame as Liquor Control and Licensing told us early on that they are turning around these applications in about 12-14 weeks.  Our experience will easily be double that, so be weary with this kind of thing as the time expected to complete this will be about double what their estimates were.

I will continue to update this as we move through the process, but we will hopefully have our licence in place in the next few months.  Anything beyond that will only serve to delay our opening and really hurt our business.

4.  Lounge Endorsement:

We applied for the lounge endorsement several months ago and it hasn’t even been looked at.  It seems that liquor control and licensing won’t do anything with it until you receive your manufacturers licence.  As such, I will update this as we learn more.  Like anything, get started on this early, use an architect, and get it as perfect as you can so that you have as little a chance as possible of a failure to launch.

The lounge endorsement is critical for us, as it will allow our brewery to sell beer on premises by the glass.  It will allow us to keep our head above water while we establish sales of our product to bars, restaurants and liquor stores.

In BC, your lounge endorsement won’t get looked at until you get your manufacturers licence, which amazingly we still don’t have.  It has been a total of 8 months that we have been waiting, and the changes requested and changes we have made to it are the reason it has been held up for so long.  We are starting to panic a little bit, as we are about 2 months out from our opening, but I have been assured by our contact at the government that we will soon receive our approval in principal.

5.  Electrical and Plumbing Permit:  Full stop if our mechanical tradesperson didn’t have pull at City Hall, we would have been delayed for a month, as the wait to get our licence would have been a long time.  We didn’t even think about this kind of thing, which re-enforces the need to have a good team to work with.

Your mechanical and electrical team is critical to sustaining momentum in the project and making sure that you don’t have any set backs along the way.  Having a group that knows the code, what you can and can’t do, and how to manage the things that skirt the line is so important.




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