While the Arts Club Theatre Company continues to wow audiences with its production of Onegin at the newly minted BMO Theatre Centre, British Columbia’s archaic liquor laws were once again on display, severely limiting anyone under the age of 19 from seeing this ground-breaking work.

According to the Arts Club, the BMO Theatre Centre currently operates under a special occasion liquor license for each of its shows. As a result of that license, no one under the age of 19 can attend when liquor is allowed inside the theatre.

While there was a conscious decision by the Arts Club to allow alcohol inside the theatre during Onegin‘s run, until a proper permit is obtained, means the bulk of the performances are off limits to anyone under the legal drinking age.  While those underage can attend matinee performances when no alcohol is served, it severely limits an entire segment of the theatre going public from attending.

And the Arts Club is not alone here. For theatre to survive it needs to develop younger audiences. How that is possible when our puritanical laws are worried about patrons slipping their underage theatre companions a glass of wine in a darkened theatre, is anyone’s guess.

To suggest that this issue could be solved by simply not serving alcohol is not the answer. Arts organizations, the Arts Club included I am sure, are dependent on as many revenue streams as possible. Whether we like it or not, the sale of alcohol is helping to fund what we get to see on stage.

As arts organizations continue to struggle they need to attract new audiences, not prevent them from attending. It is time to send a message to our politicians that the glacial changes to our liquor laws are having a direct impact on the arts in British Columbia.

The provincial government continues to tout reforms to our outdated liquor laws, but the inaction on these changes are having an adverse effect on the bottom-line.  The arts are not a “special event”.