It’s fitting that after a year of significant liquor law announcements, reforms, and court cases coming from across the country, the Ontario Court of Appeal would release a liquor law decision just before the start of the New Year. While the result was unfortunate for the Toronto Distillery Company, and affirms a common practice used by liquor control boards to extract tax revenue from small producers, it does provide food for thought for liquor lawyers from coast-to-coast.
On October 20, 2016 the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch suspended the food primary liquor licence of Johnnie Fox’s Irish Snug for a period of ten days. The reasons for the Branch’s decision in Re 641486 B.C. Ltd. dba Johnnie Fox’s Irish Snug can be read here.
In the 1920s, as Prohibition in Canada was on the retreat, the federal government and each of the provincial governments were in agreement that liquor sales and consumption needed to be tightly controlled. To facilitate this agenda each province created a liquor control board that monopolized the wholesale purchasing, pricing, and retailing of alcoholic beverages under a heavily regulated regime.
Every day British Columbians head to the internet to do their shopping, even for perishable goods like groceries and flowers, and they expect to have the products they purchase delivered to their door. Now, (finally) they can do the same for all their beer, wine and spirits needs.
In January of this year the Toronto Distillery Company (the “Distillery”) brought an application in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice for a declaration that the levy imposed by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (the “LCBO”) on the sale of its products at its on-site retail store is unconstitutional. The Distillery’s position is that the “levy” the LCBO charges on all of its products is in substance a “tax” and only the Parliament of Canada or the Legislature of Ontario has the authority to impose taxes.
On August 18, 2016 the Minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation announced a series of changes to the Yukon’s liquor laws in line with the government’s previous commitment to “modernize and streamline liquor regulations”. In all, 26 regulatory changes were announced that came into effect immediately. The President of the Yukon Liquor Corporation described the changes as improving consumer convenience, reducing administrative processes and clarifying business practices. Laudable goals indeed. The press release and full list of regulatory changes can be found here.
On April 13, 2016 the British Columbia Court of Appeal released its reasons in The Cambie Malone’s Corporation v. British Columbia (Liquor Control and Licensing Branch).
British Columbia’s liquor licensing regime is administered by the general manager – an individual appointed under the Public Service Act by the cabinet minister responsible for the Liquor Distribution Branch, which is currently part of the Ministry of Small Business portfolio. The general manager, and the staff he or she delegates powers and responsibilities to, have significant impact on the way liquor laws are developed and applied in British Columbia.
“It would be a simple task to draft legislation for the distribution and sale of alcoholic beverages if all our citizens were self-disciplined and moderate users, but such is not the case, and this is amply supported by the incontrovertible knowledge that all civilised countries find it necessary and desirable to enact restrictive and disciplinary laws for its control”- Report of the British Columbia Liquor Inquiry Commission 1952
On May 20, 2016 the general manager of the Liquor Licensing and Control Branch issued its decision in Re Caprice Hospitality Inc. dba Caprice Nightclub ordering a 15 day suspension of the popular Vancouver nightclub’s liquor primary licence. The decision can be found here.