‘It’s been a heck of a ride’: Vancouver whisky bar at centre of legal battle to close after 36 years

What will become of one of the world’s largest whisky libraries that’s long called Vancouver home?

Fets Whisky Kitchen, which endured a government raid in January 2018 and a protracted legal battle with the province, has revealed the business will shutter soon. Fets Whisky Kitchen/Facebook

It may be home to “one of the world’s largest whisky selections,” but after a 36-year run (and a couple of name changes), Fets Whisky Kitchen will be closing permanently.

Owners Eric and Allura Fergie posted the closure notice on social media as September got underway, indicated Fets Whisky Kitchen’s last dinner service will be Friday, Dec. 23.

“Our lease is up early next year, and we have decided not to renew. We feel it’s best to resign while we are on top of our game and will proudly work with our staff to make everyone’s final visits as memorable as their first,” explain the Fergies.

The couple also note that they delivered the announcement to the full staff as well.

Fets began in 1986 as Fettucini’s Café at 1179 Commercial Dr. A move to its current location, 1230 Commerical Dr, took place in 1996, as did a name tweak to Fets Bar & Grill, and in 2013 they rebranded as Fets Whisky Kitchen.

In recent years, Fets has been known for its legal battle with the B.C. liquor control board. In early 2018, the provincial government conducted four simultaneous Prohibition-style raids on establishments in Victoria, Nanaimo and Vancouver and confiscated tens of thousands of dollars worth of liquor. They were targeting bottles of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s unique (and expensive) whiskies; the bottles were shipped to B.C. under proper channels and all appropriate taxes paid, however, the licensees bought them through private retailers instead of government stores, which is not allowed.

Among those being raided was Fets Whisky Kitchen.

The raid led to several years of legal back and forth between the Fergies and the B.C. government, which did not get any mention in the couple’s closing notice.

“It’s been a heck of a ride!” write the Fergies. “We have had the pleasure of working with many amazing people over the past 36 years. We have forged many great relationships over the years, and we will miss seeing everyone on a regular basis. Too many memories have been made here to count but we have cherished our time operating one of Vancouver’s longest continuously family-owned and operated restaurants.”

With an end-of-year closing in sight, Fets will mark the last few months in business with several whisky dinners.

The closure does leave one lingering question for Fets’ owners: “Hmm, what to do with one of the world’s largest whisky selections?”

—Lindsay William-Ross, Vancouver is Awesome

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.

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Vancouver bar claims government seizure of $40K in whisky breached charter rights

Fets Whisky Kitchen on Commercial Drive was raided in January 2018

In January 2018, Fets Whisky Kitchen was raided by B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch. Photo Fets Whisky Kitchen/Facebook

The Vancouver bar taking the B.C. government to court in an effort to recover $40,000 in whisky seized in 2018 has launched further court action alleging the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch breached its charter rights.

In January 2018, Fets Whisky Kitchen, a mainstay on Commercial Drive since 1986, was raided by B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch — 242 bottles of Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) single malt whisky were seized, and owners Eric and Allura Fergie were eventually fined $3,000.

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Whisky raid

Why did BC LCLB agents seize an estimated $150,000 in whisky? And could it happen to your favourite tipple, too?

Provincial liquor inspectors remove bottles of whisky from Fets Whisky Kitchen in Vancouver. Fets Whisky Kitchen photo.

It was a scene that might have been straight out of Prohibition—were this not 2018.

On the morning of January 19, 2018, plainclothes teams of B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch agents descended upon two licensed establishments in Vancouver and Nanaimo: Fets Whisky Kitchen and The Grand Hotel. Later that day, in Victoria, they visited The Union Club and Little Jumbo Cocktail Bar. What were they after? Illicit booze, grey market goods being sold as the real thing, or maybe something even more heinous?

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Whisky raid leaves shelves empty, bar owners stunned

Provincial liquor inspectors remove bottles of whisky from Fets Whisky Kitchen in Vancouver. Fets Whisky Kitchen photo.

It’s the story that everyone in the BC booze industry is buzzing about: On Jan. 18, the provincial government conducted four simultaneous Prohibition-style raids on establishments in Victoria, Nanaimo and Vancouver and confiscated tens of thousands of dollars worth of liquor.

Their target? Bottles of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s unique (and expensive) whiskies.

Their reasoning? Although the bottles were shipped to B.C. under proper channels and all appropriate taxes paid, the licensees bought them through private retailers instead of government stores, which is not allowed.

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