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B.C. cafe shuttered after selling can of beer without food

A Hunnybee Bruncheonette cafe in Vancouver has been ordered to close for a day after it sold an undercover liquor inspector a can of beer to take out without selling them any food.
Image Credit: INSTAGRAM/Hunnybee Bruncheonette

A B.C. cafe has been ordered to close for a day after it sold an undercover liquor inspector a can of beer to take out without selling them any food.

According to a Nov. 10 Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch decision, the Vancouver brunch spot Hunnybee Bruncheonette got into trouble with the province after a liquor inspector bought one can of beer from the cafe and left without ordering food.

The decision said the restaurant has a food primary liquor licence and is only allowed to sell alcohol if a person also purchases food. The small 90-square-foot cafe largely sells breakfast and lunch and has no table service.

On Aug. 17, the undercover liquor inspector grabbed a beer from the fridge and headed to the counter. The inspector then purchased the beer and left the cafe.

The Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch say this contravenes liquor license which allows off-sales only with the purchase of food. The penalty is between $1,000 and $3,000, or having the business shuttered for one to three days.

In its defence, the cafe said it didn't realize that the liquor inspector wasn't also going to order food.

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The decision described the eatery as a cafe where alcohol comprises less than five per cent of its sales and is closed in the evening.

In its defence, Hunnybee Bruncheonette said the new liquor laws are confusing and have changed a lot during COVID. It also questioned what constitutes a "sufficient meal" under its food primary licence as the cafe sells toast.

The licensee argued the vast majority of customers who buy alcohol consume it on the premises and pointed out its prices are twice that of a liquor store.

The cafe said it thought the liquor inspector that bought the beer was heading to the patio to drink it.

However, the Liquor Branch points out that because customers have to walk across a public sidewalk to get to the patio, a staff member needs to carry the alcohol.

Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch delegate Dianne Flood said in the decision she is "very concerned" that the licensee was unaware of this.

The delegate gave no explanation as to why the liquor license wouldn't allow a customer to carry a can of beer across the sidewalk to the patio or what could possibly happen if a person did so.

The liquor board points out the cafe made a similar infraction two months early when another liquor inspector witness the cafe selling off-sales without the purchase of a meal.

At that point, the Liquor Branch spoke to the licensee but didn't impose a fine.

The cafe placed a notice on the fridge saying alcohol had to be accompanied by a meal and spoke to staff about the incident.

However, the Liquor Branch said the sign was "too small and is not prominently placed."

The Liquor Branch also criticized the cafe for an Instagram post which said "beer and wine to enjoy here or elsewhere."

"This posting could easily lead patrons, and also staff, to think there is no requirement for off-site sales to be accompanied by a meal order," the delegate said.

The decision goes through lengthy details about what steps the cafe had taken to train staff on the rules but ultimately decides the cafe had failed to show due diligence in its liquor sales.

Ultimately, the Liquor Branch ordered the cafe to close for one day to avoid a fine.

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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