“Burt Reynolds” Shooters & Undercover Cops

On July 15, 2014 the General Manager of the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch released its decision in the matter of re Boutique Lounge, case EH13-174.

In Boutique Lounge four undercover police officers attend a liquor primary establishment then known as the Boutique Lounge in Victoria, B.C. The officers pulled up to the bar shortly after 12:30 a.m. and observed three bartenders working – one of which subsequently lined-up seven shots of “Burt Reynolds” (1/2 oz. spiced rum, ½ oz. butterscotch liqueur for those not familiar). Each of the bartenders consumed a shot. The decision does not make clear who had the remaining four. Unfortunately for the three bartenders, this happened right in front of the police officers. The bartenders were subsequently fired.

Section 42(3) of the Liquor Control and Licensing Regulation deals with consumption of liquor in licensed establishments. It reads:

 (3) A licensee, and the employees of the licensee, must not consume liquor while working in the licensed establishment or while working at the site of a residential event catered by the licensee.

At the hearing, Boutique Lounge did not dispute that the contravention of s.42(3) of the Regulation occurred, instead it asked for leniency. Leniency would not be forthcoming. When arriving at a penalty for the Boutique Lounge the Branch considered the five previous licence suspensions the establishment had received over the last seven years. In its view these prior contraventions taken together “reveal[ed] a poor history of compliance with the obligations of operating a licensed establishment” and supported a penalty on the higher end of the scale. Accordingly a three-day licence suspension was ordered.

For licensees, the Branch’s message in Boutique Lounge is clear: prior contraventions of the Act will be taken into account when assessing the appropriate range of monetary penalty, or length of licence suspension, for subsequent infractions.

While complying with the  Liquor Control and Licensing Act and the establishment’s terms of licence should be every manager or owner’s priority – when faced with a Notice of Enforcement Action that contains an allegation or proposed penalty that you dispute, your establishment should challenge the contravention and consider retaining counsel. Though the monetary penalties for certain contraventions of the Act may not seem significant enough to warrant retaining counsel, if a “first time” infraction is not defended properly it will be held against your licence in the future should the establishment receive another Notice of Enforcement Action. The period of licence suspension for most “second contraventions” is substantial, making the decision to invest the time and money into challenging your establishment’s first contravention a worthwhile business decision.

*Alcohol & Advocacy publishes articles for information purposes only. They are not a substitute for legal advice, and persons requiring such advice should consult legal counsel.

Dan Coles
Retired bartender. Young lawyer. From the East, living in the West. Interested in British Columbia's producers and purveyors of wine, beer and spirits.

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