In order to obtain (and renew) a licence to sell alcohol in British Columbia, the General Manager of the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch must be satisfied that the individual or individuals applying for the licence are suitable – meaning that they are “fit and proper”. To assist the General Manager (and his or her delegates) in making this determination the Liquor Control and Licensing Act provides that the General Manager may make inquiries and conduct investigations, including background investigations and criminal record checks, for the purpose of informing the exercise of this discretion.
This is an important concept for existing and pending licensees to understand if they (or their business partners, investors, friends and family) have a history of criminality or otherwise unlawful behaviour – even if that conduct occurred in other provinces or countries. Alcohol & Advocacy has written about these concepts before in other contexts, and those articles can be found here and here.
A very recent decision of Ontario’s Licence Appeal Tribunal (“LAT“) involved an analysis of these very concerns. Although Ontario’s legislation and processes are a little different than British Columbia’s, the LAT’s treatment of issues relating to past criminality, accountability, and transparency during the licence application process are in the writer’s view instructive.Continue reading
British Columbia’s “new” Liquor Control and Licensing Act, which came into effect January, 2017 introduced a new internal review process for licensees on the receiving end of enforcement orders. This process, called “reconsideration” allows a liquor licensee or permittee to apply to have the decision made against them reconsidered if it meets one of the three prescribed grounds:
The grounds listed above are the only basis that a decision may be reconsidered.
Over the course of three articles Alcohol & Advocacy will explore the mechanics of this new procedure.Continue reading
Provincial liquor Acts furnish their respective jurisdictions with a complete code for the administration of the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages. Mr. Justice Rand of the Supreme Court of Canada, all the way back in 1959, observed that these provincial Acts recognize the association of wines and liquors as embellishments of food and “its ritual as an interest of the public”. He went on to find that once obtained, a licence or permit to sell alcohol at a bar or restaurant becomes a vital part of that establishment. This was over 60 years ago.Continue reading
British Columbia’s Court of Appeal ended 2017 with a stinging rebuke of the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch’s October, 2016 decision to cancel the liquor licences of Dell Lanes, a family-operated bowling alley in Surrey, B.C. Madam Justice Newbury, after being left with a “sense of unease” concerning the decision-making process followed by the Branch ordered that the bowling alley’s licences be renewed, albeit with some additional conditions.
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.
Alcohol & Advocacy has previously considered what it means to be a fit and proper person for the purpose of holding a liquor licence in British Columbia: the criteria are broad and the discretion is great. Many of the criteria relate to an assessment of what the licence applicant has actually done, such as having a criminal record or committing violations of the Liquor Control and Licensing Act. But what about the less objective criteria – such as being “of good reputation and character” or being “associated” with people involved in criminal activities? How do regulators interpret those requirements?
Alcohol & Advocacy routinely provides readers with an “insiders” look at how the liquor laws in British Columbia are written, interpreted, and applied. At A&A we often write about the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch making “decisions” and issuing licences as well as fines – this is what lawyers call “administrative law”. But what is admin law?
On April 23, 2015 the Supreme Court of British Columbia released its reasons in The Cambie Malone’s Corporation v. British Columbia (Liquor Control and Licensing Branch).