Vancouver bar at centre of $40K whisky seizure denied procedural fairness, judge rules

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has order the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch to hand over documents about a seizure of alcohol from Fets Whisky Kitchen in Vancouver.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ordered the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch to give a Vancouver restaurant records relevant to the 2018 seizure of 242 bottles of scotch whisky.

Justice Nathan Smith ruled March 14 that Fets Whisky Kitchen had been denied documents the Commercial Drive eatery needed to address the seizures.

“I find that Fets was entitled to fully argue the issue based on a complete evidentiary record and that the denial of full access to documents relating to the branch’s investigation was a breach of procedural fairness,” Smith said.

Restaurant owners Eric and Allura Fergie have maintained the branch prejudged their situation and refused to hand over documentation so the couple could fight the seizure of $40,000 worth of single malt whisky, a petition to the court said.

The inspectors, accompanied by police, raided Fets on Jan. 18, 2018. They brought with them a U-Haul van and spent five hours going through bottles of whisky before carting them off in front of customers. The operation was code-named Operation Malt Barley.

The following June, the branch fined the business $3,000.

The Fergies asked for a reconsideration but were denied documentation to fight the case. Told to use the freedom-of-information system to obtain documents, they received heavily redacted papers.

In response, the pair went to court for a judicial review seeking an order setting aside the reconsideration decision and entering a stay of proceedings.

The Fergies also sought an order for the whisky’s return.

Smith said the issue he needed to decide was whether “Fets was denied procedural fairness by being denied access to documents that were potentially relevant to the argument it sought to advance.”

Smith said the case should return to a branch hearing delegate once Fets has been provided with the documents.

The judge did not address the return of the whisky.

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