A Vancouver restaurant says it has been targeted by government agents in what it describes as “a prohibition-style raid.”
Some of those whiskies appear to have raised the ire of B.C.’s liquor control officers, who descended on the restaurant — along with police — on Thursday, according to Fets’ owner Eric Fergie.
Fergie said the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB) officers seized 242 bottles of whisky from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, altogether worth about $40,000, that were purchased through a private liquor store.
“They were only interested in those bottles, and they said so. But we were told it was complaint based and the complaint originated in Victoria.”
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) is an international organization that allows members to buy exclusive whiskys not available to the general public.
Fergie said three other businesses, The Grand Hotel in Nanaimo, Little Jumbo and The Union Club in Victoria — all “SMWS Partner Bars” were also targeted, with inspectors confiscating the same product.
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In B.C., licensees are legally required to purchase all alcohol through the Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB).
Fergie admits buying the whisky broke those rules, but said the practice is commonplace in the hospitality industry and was ignored under the previous government.
“There is not a cocktail bar in the province that does not have a specialty bottle in the back shelf that was acquired through licensee to licensee purchases.”
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Fergie said he’s now worried how his small business will absorb the cost.
“If we are fined heavily for the infractions and we lose our product, then, you know, we’ve got 20-something people that work for us and it’s going to be difficult.”
The LCLB said it cannot comment on compliance measures taken against specific businesses.
However, in a statement, the Ministry of the Attorney General said seizures may happen if the inspector feels product was obtained unlawfully.
A second statement by the Ministry said Mark Hicken has been appointed as liquor policy advisor to “reach out to B.C.’s beer, wine and spirits stakeholders, including manufacturing, retail and hospitality industry.”
According to the Ministry, part of the LCLB’s role is to inspect and investigate when complaints are made against establishments.