B.C. liquor branch altered charity policy in June

Province announces some changes, but fails to explain delay to inform public of charity wine auction restrictions

Ivan Habel

Ivan Habel

The B.C. liquor control and licensing branch (LCLB) failed to notify charities of fundamental policy changes that outlaw the auctioning of privately donated liquor, the News has learned.

A May 2012 version of the special occasion licence policy manual reveals significant revisions were made to the sections governing charitable donations and wine auctions in June.

The changes also shed light on why Victoria’s Belfry Theatre was denied a special occasion licence for its wine auction last week, after hosting the event without issue in 2010 and 2011.

In the older manual, section 4.6 stated: “Liquor, including donated liquor, may be auctioned at a licensed special occasion to raise funds for charity.”

The revised manual states: “Only liquor which has been purchased by the SOL holder or liquor which has been donated by a manufacturer or agent, may be auctioned at a licensed special occasion to raise funds for a registered charity.”

An additional revision (section 4.4) states that only a liquor manufacturer or agent can donate alcohol for charity events. The word “only” does not appear in the earlier version.

The changes mean private liquor donations for charity auctions are illegal, unless that liquor is directly purchased from a government liquor store or agent.

The LCLB did not provide comment on why it neglected to issue a policy directive in June, a public action normally taken after significant policy updates.

Energy and mines minister Rich Coleman, who oversees the LCLB, was travelling Thursday and unavailable for comment.

A ministry spokesperson referred to the policy revisions as “housekeeping.”

“The prohibition against auctioning privately donated liquor at special occasion licence events is not the result of recent changes to the special occasion licence manual. The legislation has been in place for many years,” she said in an email.

While the legislation hasn’t changed, the Liquor Control and Licensing Act contains no references to charitable wine auctions, said wine lawyer Mark Hicken.

The unannounced revisions hinge on a longstanding regulation that says a licencee must purchase liquor from a government branch or other authorized channels, he said.

It remains to be seen why the regulation was suddenly applied charity events.

“I think you can interpret those sections so that they do not apply to charities,” Hicken said. “There’s a difference between policy and law. A policy manual is just their interpretation of what they think the law says.”

Hundreds of hospitals, theatres, schools and arts organizations in B.C. now face financial uncertainty with the removal of a key fundraising tool.

“It will have a huge impact,” said Ivan Habel, the Belfry’s general manager. “We’re talking about literally hundreds of thousands of dollars that are raised through these kinds of things.”

On Wednesday, Coleman posted to Twitter that he is “working on it but it won’t happen overnight. It’s nobodies (sic) intention to undermine the work of charities.”

Victoria-Beacon Hill MLA Carole James called for a full review of provincial liquor regulations.

“It’s ridiculous. I’ve been at fundraisers where people have auctioned off bottles of wine that had been donated. This is not unique to the Belfry, this happens all over B.C.,” she said.

The province issued a statement Friday morning saying it will allow the auctioning of gift baskets that contain liquor, but stopped short of committing to legalizing wine-only auctions.

“From time to time, we find outdated liquor policies that may have been relevant at a particular time in history but don’t work today,” Coleman said in a statement. “Our goal is to get rid of these outdated liquor laws that unnecessarily restrict British Columbians and to regulate alcohol responsibly in the process.”

dpalmer@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Junior rowers with the Victoria City Rowing Club, (left to right) Teagan Zecher, Eryn Whale, Hui-Lin Shan, Willow Tzonev, Quinn Parfitt and Stella Graham, won the Rowing Canada Aviron Row to Tokyo challenge and are looking forward to getting back in the crew boats after the pandemic. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Young Greater Victoria rowers find community during solitary training sessions

Rowers train virtually, social distanced at Elk Lake amid COVID-19 restrictions

Victoria police are looking for Serene Cook after she was last seen in downtown Victoria on May 6. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
MISSING: VicPD seeks high-risk Indigenous woman missing more than a week

Serene Cook, 38, last seen May 6 in downtown Victoria

The Greater Victoria Rent Bank has seen an overwhelming need for financial assistance by renters. (Black Press Media file photo)
Funding will allow Greater Victoria Rent Bank to operate until March 2022

More than $300,000 distributed to 200 renters in program’s first 10 weeks

Potatoes have two genetic centre of origins, one from the lowlands in Chile and the other from the highlands in Bolivia. The highlands potatoes flower and produce fruit profusely, which is where the seeds come from. They contribute to exciting and ecologically imporant genetic diversity of potatoes. (Submitted/Fiona Hamersley Chambers)
Metchosin farmer shares how to invent a new potato

Using seeds anyone can name their own variety

Kay Gallivan paints a mural on the east wall of North Park’s Tiny Home Village (Kiernan Green / Victoria News Staff)
North Park Tiny Home Village opens at Royal Athletic Park lot to 30 unhoused

Residents will settle into new private units and the North Park community over the weekend

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Chilliwack’s Kile Brown, performing as drag queen Hailey Adler, dances and lip syncs in front of hundreds of people during the inaugural Chilliwack Pride Barbecue at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre on Aug. 24, 2019. Monday, May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of May 16 to 22

International Day Against Homophobia, Talk Like Yoda Day, Sea Monkey Day all coming up this week

Tagen Marshall of Parksville is looking to raise funds for a new specialized van. (Submitted photo)
Wolf: Parksville’s Tagen Marshall inspires others, aims to invest in himself

VIU honour student with spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy seeks help achieving big dreams

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of May 11

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
MISSING: Salt Spring RCMP find woman’s car, still seek Island resident

Sinikka Gay Elliott is 5’3” with a slim build and dark brown short hair

A Saanich man received almost 10 years in Supreme Court in Courtenay for a shooting incident from 2018. Record file photo
Shooting incident on Island nets almost 10-year sentence

Saanich man was arrested without incident north of Courtenay in 2018

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Most Read