Eric Fergie has been pouring drinks on The Drive since 1986 and he’s now filed a petition to go to B.C. Supreme Court to fight the provincial government.
Fergie and his wife are the co-owners of Fets Whisky Kitchen, a bar on Commercial Drive that was raided by liquor inspectors more than two years ago.
“Three liquor inspectors and police showed up at our door,” Fergie recalled Sunday. “As they told my wife, ‘We’re here to seize these bottles as part of an ongoing investigation.’”
The investigation was into the sale of a single brand of whisky – a single-malt Scotch that came from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society collection. It’s a club that is licensed to sell in Canada, but it’s private.
That means buying products from the society and reselling them in a bar is illegal, according to Jeff Guignard, spokesperson for the Alliance of Beverage Licensees.
“For some reason, in British Columbia we have a strange law where a restaurant, a pub, a bar, any place where a consumer can sit down and have a glass of alcohol, those places are legally obliged to purchase their liquor products from a government liquor store,” Guignard said.
Fergie has twice gone to the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch to challenge the raids and the $3,000 fine he received, on the grounds that the process was flawed. On Thursday, Jan. 30, his latest challenge was upheld.
“(I’m) very, very frustrated," he told CTV News Vancouver about his situation. "It’s a system that should be working with us, not against us."
He claims the bar should have been given a chartered caution, and his wife should have been able to call their lawyer.
But Guignard says it’s the law that’s problem.
“We encourage our members to follow all liquor laws," he said. "Even the stupid ones, and this is a stupid one. But this is a stupid one that just needs to change. It’s strange to me that a liquor licensee, selling to another liquor licensee, selling to a responsible, of age adult, would be a crime.”
In February 2018, B.C. Attorney General David Eby did indicate the law would change.
"Bars or restaurants that specialize in exotic products that they can’t get through the public wholesaler should be able to access that kind of product legally, but that is an issue of law reform and that law reform hasn't happened yet,” Eby told reporters in Victoria at the time.
CTV News received a statement from Eby’s office last Sunday saying it could not comment on the Fets case as it was before the courts.
Guignard says it’s the consumer that’s ultimately paying the price, calling the law a government monopoly.