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Category Archives for Liquor Control Act Enforcement

Ikura Japanese Restaurant: Drinking, Driving and the Fit and Proper Analysis

Ikura, located on Granville Street in Vancouver, holds a food primary liquor licence. At issue in the hearing before the general manager’s delegate was the Liquor & Cannabis Regulation Branch’s allegation that the licensee was in substantial breach of the terms and conditions of its licence by permitting someone to act as “manager” who was expressly prohibited from doing so. The Branch considered this contravention to be so serious that it sought the cancellation of Ikura’s liquor licence.

You can read the enforcement hearing decision in full here on Canlii as part of the British Columbia Liquor & Cannabis Regulation Branch’s new enforcement hearing decision reporting and publishing initiative.

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Liquor & Cannabis Regulation Branch Enforcement Decisions now on CanLii

Big news for British Columbia’s hospitality industry: enforcement decisions of the general manager’s delegates from 2022 onwards are now available on CanLii!

Some time ago I participated in a short survey commissioned by the Branch canvassing views on how useful (searchable) the existing enforcement decision database is, and the merits of the Branch uploading its decisions to CanLii. I strongly supported this initiative. I came across this happy development earlier this week while perusing the compliance and enforcement section of the Liquor & Cannabis Regulation Branch website (as one does) and I confess I was surprised it was launched with so little fanfare.

Why this matters

Previously the only way to access enforcement decisions was through the search function on the Branch website. For the time being this remains the case for all pre-2022 decisions. I have never figured out how to work this feature effectively, but suffice to say its functionality is limited. The search results invariably yield a mishmash of waiver summaries and .pdfs of hearing decisions from various time periods.

Further, and for reasons that no one has ever been able to explain to me, enforcement decision .pdfs do not contain numbered paragraphs. This makes citing the decisions a frustrating task.

The Branch’s new CanLii initiative will cure these and other grumbles.

For the uninitiated, CanLii, or more properly the Canadian Legal Information Institute, was founded and is paid for by lawyers and notaries who are members of Canada’s provincial and territorial law societies. It is a free and very user friendly database of Canadian court decisions from all levels as well as legislation and an increasing number of administration tribunals – such as the BC Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch.

Branch decisions posted on CanLii will now be:

  • Highly searchable
  • Contain hyperlinks to both legislation and other decisions (of the tribunal and the court)
  • Indicate “treatment” (if the decision has been referred to in other tribunal decisions ,or by the court)
  • Contain numbered paragraphs
  • Eligible for “CanLii Connects” – summaries or commentary from the legal community available

Alcohol & Advocacy appreciates that enforcement hearing decisions have a relatively small audience. Nevertheless, the Branch’s decision to make enforcement decisions more accessible, more searchable, and generally easier to navigate will go some distance to improving the public’s understanding of its work, the quality of the submissions licensees are able to make before the tribunal, and ultimately the soundness of the general manager’s delegates decision making.

It is also worth mentioning that the Branch appears to be organizing and publishing waiver summaries in a new and more accessible format. This .pdf, which I anticipate will be updated from time-to-time, provides an easy to read summary of the licensees/establishments that have recently signed waivers with the contravention(s) and related penalty also set out. While there is absolutely a naming-and-shaming element to this document, which not all licensees will appreciate, the public has an interest in seeing the work product of liquor inspectors and the Branch set out in an accessible format.

The silver lining for savvy licensees is that the waiver summary provides a useful snapshot of the Branch’s enforcement priorities (by geography, licensee type, contravention type etc.) and the corresponding penalty.

If your establishment has been served with a contravention notice, or notice of enforcement action, or you have questions or concerns about liquor inspectors or the Branch generally, contact Dan Coles at Owen Bird.

*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.

BOOM CHAKALAKA: Ignoring COVID Orders in BC can cost you your liquor licence

Recent decisions published by the Supreme Court of British Columbia and the Liquor & Cannabis Regulation Branch indicate that across British Columbia liquor inspectors and environmental health officers (“EHOs“) have been busy monitoring food and beverage establishments for compliance with COVID related public health orders.

Establishments that refuse to comply risk losing their business and liquor licences in addition to stiff financial penalties.

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The Lobster Trap v. Registrar (Alcohol, Cannabis & Gaming)

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.

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The Due Diligence Defence: “good intentions” are not enough

One of the defences a licensee can raise at an enforcement hearing before a Delegate of the General Manager of the Liquor & Cannabis Regulation Branch is the defence of due diligence. To be successful the licensee must satisfy the Delegate that the licensee had implemented adequate training to prevent the subject contravention and taken reasonable steps to ensure the effective application of that education and the operations of those systems.

Too many licensees appear before the tribunal without adequate evidence, organization, or submissions to satisfy the General Manager’s Delegate that they have met the due diligence standard. The Branch’s recent decision in Re: Boston Pizza Restaurant & Sports Bar is another example. You can read the decision in full here.

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Licensees Beware: BC’s Liquor & Cannabis Regulation Branch Complaint Process

The Liquor & Cannabis Regulation Branch makes a point of inspecting all licensed establishments in BC at least once or twice a year with higher risk establishments being inspected more frequently. As there are considerably more licensed establishments and special events in BC then there are liquor inspectors, the Branch must allocate its resources to ensure that the time liquor inspectors spend in the field is used efficiently. Accordingly, establishments without compliance history (a history of contravening the Liquor Control and Licensing Act) or significant complaint history (the Branch tracks the number and types of complaints it receives against an establishment) are treated as a low priority for inspection.

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Enforcement Order Reconsideration Part 2: Is the reconsideration process fair and efficient?

In Part 1 of this three-part series on the reconsideration process, Alcohol & Advocacy explained the mechanics of the reconsideration process. Now we delve a little deeper.

Six years ago Parliamentary Secretary John Yap submitted his Final Report on liquor law and policy review to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice. His report made 73 recommendations calling for “substantive reforms” to modernize British Columbia’s liquor laws, distilled from his consultations with members of the public and industry stakeholders, albeit limited by his terms of reference. The report in fall can be read here.

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Enforcement Order Reconsideration Process Part 1: How does reconsideration work?

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:

  • there is substantial and material evidence that is new or was not discovered or discoverable at the time of the original hearing;
  • there was an error of law (other than a constitutional error of law regarding cannabis reconsideration); or
  • there was a failure to observe the rules of procedural fairness.

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.

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Liquor & Non-medical Cannabis Compliance & Enforcement: A&A’s 2019 round-up

2019 has been a busy year thus far for the British Columbia Liquor & Non-medical Cannabis Compliance & Enforcement program. Sales to minors, serving intoxicated patrons (or serving patrons to the point of intoxication) and staff drinking on the job remain the leading causes of enforcement action. No surprises here.

The rules and regulations in British Columbia that govern how liquor is bought, sold, stored, marketed and consumed are complex and always changing. It is important that licensees and their staff remain informed of changes to Branch policy and the terms and conditions handbook. Below is a snapshot of the enforcement proceedings that the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch has pursued this year.

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BC Liquor Branch updates policy for Online Sale and Delivery of Alcohol

On May 24, 2019 the Liquor Control and Cannabis Regulation Branch issued Policy Direction No. 19 – 03 which supersedes Policy Direction No. 16 – 13.

As readers of Alcohol & Advocacy know, in British Columbia private liquor stores (Licensee Retail Stores), Wine Stores and Manufacturers with Onsite Stores may deliver liquor to customers purchased online under certain terms and conditions. We’ve previously written about this topic here.

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