Free The Whisky - British Columbia

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As you may already be aware, on January 19th, on the eve of the 2018 Victoria Whisky Festival, LCLB inspectors, (in at least one case, alongside armed police officers) raided 4 bars who were selling Scotch Malt Whisky Society whiskies by the glass. Hundreds of bottles were confiscated from the premises of these bars, namely Fets Whisky Kitchen (Vancouver), Little Jumbo (Victoria), The Union Club (Victoria), and The Grand Hotel (Nanaimo).

This action by the LCLB is highly problematic for a number of reasons.

First and most importantly – as many have already pointed out – there does not seem to be any good reason to prohibit restaurant licensees from purchasing liquor from private British Columbia liquor stores. Since private liquor stores in BC are supplied by the province to begin with, taxes on bottles purchased via that channel are paid in full. If a private store sells those bottles to a restaurant licensee, we believe there is no harm, and no foul.

Let’s set aside the fact that these raids seem to have been arbitrarily aggressive toward the SMWS and the small businesses working with their product. And for the time being, let’s also leave alone the fact that even casual observers can see this move by the LCLB appeared to be more focused on theatre than a sincere concern for the well-being and prosperity of British Columbians.

Instead, we acknowledge that the province of British Columbia has a rich and diverse Scotch whisky community, and is host to the world class Victoria Whisky Festival, among others hosted in this province throughout the year. The vibrancy of this whisky community is responsible for the generation of considerable provincial tax dollars. We fear that the recent prohibition-style raids, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the 1920s, will necessarily have a cooling effect on the vibrancy of the British Columbia whisky scene.

At the root, we ask specifically that the recent confiscation of whisky from small businesses be reconsidered and reversed. In general, we ask for a reconsideration and reversal of the policies that prevent small businesses from procuring legal liquor from private retail stores within British Columbia.



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