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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