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Kelowna restaurant denied liquor licence because of alleged gang involvement

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The owner of a downtown Kelowna restaurant is taking British Columbia’s liquor regulator to court, claiming she’s been wrongfully denied a liquor licence over her former husband’s ties to a now-defunct biker gang in Saskatchewan.

In a petition filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver Oct. 18, Paula Nowakowski claims her Hooligans Ales and Eats restaurant has been operating without a liquor licence since opening in November 2021. Nowakowski, who runs the restaurant through a numbered B.C. company, names the general manager of B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch as a respondent in the court petition.

According to court documents obtained by, Nowakowski claims she’s done everything required to get a liquor licence, but nearly a year on, Hooligans is still limited to serving eats since the provincial liquor licensing branch has yet to issue a food primary liquor licence she applied for back in February 2020.

Nowakowski claims her liquor licence application hit a snag when an investigator with the regulator wanted more information about her business, which she claims she freely provided over a period of several months. The LCRB investigator, the court petition says, was supposed to send a final report to higher-ups in May 2021.

However, Nowakowski was left to play the waiting game as her licence application languished for months after the report was supposed to be done. By June 2021, Nowakowski still hadn’t heard from the branch about her application, prompting her to follow up about the delays. Days later, the investigator told the restaurateur that she needed to “clarify the status of her relationship with Mark Nowakowski,” her husband from whom she separated not long after signing the restaurant’s lease agreement.

It wasn’t until October 2021 that Nowakowski found out why her licence application was being held up. In a letter sent by the regulator’s Deputy General Manager of Licensing, the board outlined “concerns” about whether she was “fit and proper” to hold a liquor licence. Investigators with the branch, according to the petition, had uncovered her affiliation with Mark Nowakowski and two other men from Saskatchewan with violent criminal histories.

The letter outlined that Mark Nowakowski is the former president of the Fallen Saints Motorcycle Club, a now-defunct “puppet club” of a Hells Angels chapter in Saskatoon. Moreover, the regulator pointed out that two men hired to help renovate Hooligans’ premises, Christopher Ptolemy and Ryan Hillman, had prior criminal convictions related to a violent drug-related home invasion in Saskatoon and the beating of another member of the Fallen Saints in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

In response, Hooligans’ landlord, Stanley Tessmer, a Kelowna criminal defense lawyer, told the regulator that Paula and Mark Nowakowski were separated, despite Mark’s appearance on the restaurant’s lease. In addition, Tessmer offered to provide “good character” references for Mark Nowakowski and Christopher Ptolemy, both of whom claim to be reformed and no longer involved in criminal activity. As for Hillman, Paula Nowakowski claims he was hired to do renovation work that was done improperly and that she no longer knows where he is, and at one time she was “considering legal action.”

Tessmer, when contacted by, declined comment on the case.

In December 2021, the Deputy General Manager of Licensing released a final decision denying Hooligans’ liquor licence application, a decision Nowakowski claims was “notably unfair.” The decision, in part, relied on information from the City of Kelowna that showed the restaurant’s business licence application was sent from an email associated with Mark Nowakowski, who splits his time between Kelowna and Saskatoon.

The provincial regulator concluded that the former biker gang president was “involved or has an active role in the business,” leading to fears that Paula Nowakowski had attempted to “mislead or hide information from the LCRB.”

Since opening last year, Nowakowski claims Hooligans hasn’t been able to serve alcohol which has “severely limited” the business.

“Customers will routinely walk out of the restaurant after learning that they cannot order ‘ales,’ and persistently ask why alcohol is not being served,” the petition states. “The refusal of this licence has imperiled the long term viability of the petitioner’s business.”

Nowakowski’s Vancouver-based lawyer Niles Bond declined comment when contacted by about the court petition. The LCRB did not provide comment on the case and had not responded to the petition in court by press time. 

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