‘Prohibition style’ raids on bars in British Columbia

Authorities in British Columbia have been accused of ‘Prohibition style’ raids on several bars that saw hundreds of bottles of Scotch worth thousands of dollars confiscated because they were not bought through the provincial monopoly.

Fets Whisky Kitchen in Vancouver where over 200 bottles were confiscated

Four venues in Vancouver, Nanaimo and Victoria were raided last week by agents of the BC Liquor Control and Licensing Branch and had bottles of Scotch whisky confiscated.

Fets Whisky Kitchen in Vancouver had 242 bottles worth C$40,000 taken away in what was described as the denouement to an “undercover sting operation”.

All of the bottles (worth C$100,000 in total) from across the four venues had been acquired from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and although bought by the venues with all tax paid, the problem is they were not acquired through the proper channels.

Due to the provincial monopoly in BC (as is the case in most Canadian provinces), on-trade venues have to buy alcohol through the Liquor Distribution Branch and whiskies from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society are not available for bars and restaurants to list.

Private stores can stock the whiskies though and it appears the on-trade venues then bought their desired malts and sold them on their own premises.

The owners of Fets told local media that the bar had stocked whiskies from the society for a number of years, had never made a secret of the fact and no issue had ever been raised by liquor inspectors on their regular visits, partly because so many view the laws as “archaic”.

Admitting that it was “on the edge of the sandbox” in terms of what was allowed, owner Eric Fergie added that anticipated changes in BC’s alcohol policy would allow them to do what they had done perfectly legally.

The owners and managers of the other bars hit in the raids had a similar story – that they had stocked the society’s products for a number of years with no isses at all and that they had done so in order to offer their customers greater choice in an effort to be more unique and competitive.

The kick-starter for the raids was said to have been a complaint (possibly from a member of the public but it was not specified) that originated in Victoria.

A statement from the Ministry of the Attorney General read: “Unlawful liquor may include liquor not purchased through an authorised source, homemade products, and products obtained on the black market.

“Seizures are the result of careful investigations when, in the opinion of liquor inspectors, liquor is possessed or kept contrary to the (Liquor Control and Licensing Act) and regulations.”

Jeff Guignard, executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees of BC, told the Vancouver Sun that he encouraged all licensees to abide by provincial alcohol laws, “even the stupid ones”.

Nonetheless, he criticised the raids and said the LDB had to offer a broader range of products to the on-trade.

He told the paper: “It’s a long-standing irritant in the industry and absolutely, its time has come. What happened yesterday was a Prohibition-era raid on a small business that is not harming anyone at all.”

BC has been evolving its alcohol laws for a number of years now with a new set of policies that came into effect from 1 April 2015 allowing local wines to be sold in select grocery stores for example.

3 Responses to “‘Prohibition style’ raids on bars in British Columbia”

  1. Herry says:

    Canadians, the most ripped off people in the world. Trudeau must be proud.

  2. Ed Patrick says:

    The Government has no place in the barrooms of the nation.

  3. Malcolm says:

    How appropriate that it may have originated in Victoria. Join the real modern world Canada. You are the laughing stock of the rest of us. Unreasonable laws encourage violations of them. The majority don’t mind reasonable laws but stupid ones are made to be broken.

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