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'Covert op' catches BC restaurant selling beer to-go without food

Image Credit: FACEBOOK:Earl's Restaurant

Another BC restaurant has been caught in a sting operation selling beer to-go without a meal.

Earl’s Restaurant received a $1,000 fine after a liquor inspector entered its Surrey premises and asked the hostess if they could buy a single beer.

The hostess said she needed to check with her floor manager and went to find out.

The details are laid out in a July 31 BC Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch decision, which says the hostess came back and told the liquor inspector they didn't sell single beer but could buy a six-pack.

The inspector bought a six-pack of Bud Light and hung around for a few minutes.

"He stated there was no ambiguity in this transaction – very clear that he was taking the six-pack off-site," the decision reads. "He noted that if he were to consume on-site, he should only have been served two beers and only with food."

Later that day the restaurant was issued a ticket for selling alcohol to-go without the purchase of food.

Earl's is the second restaurant recently to appeal having been caught selling off sales without food.

Vancouver's Lucky Taco sold a bottle of Corona to-go without food to a liquor inspector earlier this year and was ordered to close for a day.

READ MORE: BC taqueria sells a Corona to-go without food, gets shuttered

Earl’s appealed the fine saying it had done its "due diligence" but unfortunately a mistake was made.

The Liquor Branch didn't buy it.

The decision says Earl's called three witnesses for its hearing all in senior management positions with the restaurant that has more than 70 locations in Canada and the U.S.

The corporate staff said the waitress who sold the six-pack knew she wasn't supposed to sell beer to-go without food, was "very remorseful" and had "made a mistake."

The company said its staff was fully trained.

However, Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch General Manager’s Delegate Nerys Poole said this was hearsay evidence because the front-of-house staff and the floor manager weren't at the hearing.

"Unfortunately, (Earl's) chose or was unable to call either of these as witnesses," the Delegate said. "As a result, it is difficult to draw conclusions as to what training took place on the ’liquor to-go’ policy at this restaurant during the time the manager was employed."

READ MORE: B.C. bar slapped with $19K fine after liquor inspector was delayed 7 minutes

The company presented a wealth of training manuals and company-wide policies for the business and said the staff had been trained.

However, for the Liquor Branch, it wasn't enough.

"As I heard only hearsay evidence and received no documentation of her training on this policy, I find that, on a balance of probabilities, the licensee failed to adequately train its staff in this restaurant on the ‘liquor to-go’ policy," the Delegate said. "Without evidence from any of the staff who worked and were trained in the restaurant at the time of the alleged contravention, I am unable to conclude that any training was effectively applied, and the systems were in place to ensure staff were well aware of the ‘liquor to-go’ policy."

With that, Earl's lost its appeal, and chose a $1,000 fine instead of being closed for a day.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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