B.C. bar slapped with $19K fine after liquor inspector was delayed 7 minutes
A B.C. bar has been fined $19,000 after it took it seven minutes to unlock its door and let the liquor inspector in.
P. A. Squash & Fitness was slapped with a $15,000 fine for failing to allow "immediate entry" to the liquor inspector and also received fines for serving an intoxicated person and having too many people in the bar according to a Jan. 16 B.C. Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch decision.
The Port Alberni gym and squash club, which now goes by the name Rack & Rally Social Hub, had also been accused of "drawing attention to a liquor inspector and to the police" but had that allegation dropped by the B.C. Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch.
The lengthy 50-page decision gives a play-by-play account of what happened on April 8, 2022, when the bar went over capacity and several liquor inspectors showed up.
The bar's woes started two months earlier when in February 2022, police were called following reports of two women fighting outside.
The fight was over by the time the RCMP showed up 45 minutes later but an officer did witness a customer passed out and "slouched over the table" with three empty beers in front of him and one bottle half drunk.
The RCMP officer tried to wake him up but "had a great deal of difficulty doing so."
"He... had red, glassy eyes, a breath that smelled of liquor, and spoke with slurred words," the decision reads.
The bar argued it didn't over-served the customer but the Liquor Branch disagreed and issued a $3,000 fine.
Two months later the liquor inspectors turned up again on karaoke night and found the bar packed with people.
The decision says the Fire Commissioner lists the bar's capacity at 137, but the liquor licence stipulates a maximum of 55 people at one time.
On the night of the infractions, the liquor inspectors counted roughly 100 people in the bar.
The inspectors spoke to a manager who said they were allowed 137 people and not 55.
"He was loudly swearing and gesturing at the inspectors while stating his position," the decision reads.
The inspector said more liquor inspectors were coming along with the RCMP.
However, when they arrived shortly before midnight they found the front door locked.
They knocked and heard a voice shout "backdoor."
But when the inspectors got to the backdoor that was also locked. When a customer left the bar, the inspectors and the RCMP entered.
The Liquor Branch then slapped them with a ticket for "failing to allow immediate entry and inspection by liquor inspectors." Penalties range from a 15 to 90-day licence suspension and/or a $15,000 to $25,000 fine.
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In its defence, the bar argued it's being harassed by the RCMP.
The bar accused the Liquor Branch of "suppressing" the business by not allowing the 137-capacity the Fire department approved.
The manager admitted that he mumbled it was "BS" to the liquor inspectors and said he was irate "for good reason."
The bar said it locked the front door to stop anyone else from coming in and started clearing customers out.
The manager testified at a two-day hearing that he didn't open the door to the liquor inspector because he didn't hear them.
The bar also argued the law had no definition of "immediately" and pointed out they were only waiting for seven minutes.
However, the Liquor Branch didn't buy the excuse.
"Given the knowledge that the inspectors and the police would be seeking entry, it would have been reasonable for a member of the Licensee’s staff upon the inspectors knocking at the front door of the establishment to have opened the door to see who was seeking entry and, if it were the inspectors and the police, to permit them entry," the Liquor Branch ruled.
The Liquor Branch then lectured the licensee.
"It is obvious that the licensee has to be encouraged to change its attitude from one of confrontation to one of compliance," Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch General Manager’s Delegate R. John Rogers says in the decision.
The Liquor Branch goes on to say that because of the manager's attitude, it's "tempted" to increase the fines issued, but as this is a first offence, it won't.
"But this acceptance comes with a caution to the Licensee that the Branch’s policy is to seek from licensees a culture of compliance," the delegate says. "Therefore, if, in the future, a change in culture towards achieving such compliance does not appear to be forthcoming from the Licensee, further enforcement actions will most certainly follow with the resulting consequences."
With that, the Liquor Branch issued $19,000 in fines to be paid within 30 days.
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