DINER: New And Painfully Ridiculous LCLB Wine Policy Stands To Cripple BC Charities
by Andrew Morrison | Ugh. Just when you thought BC was heading in the right direction in regards to updating its laughably archaic liquor laws, the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch of the government has decided that selling wine at a charity auction poses a clear and present danger to the general welfare of British Columbians. Because duh.
The new development resulted in much rending of garments when it became the main subject of last night’s #BCwinechat. The weekly exchange of views between local wine media, winery principals, winemakers, and wine lovers often focuses (deservedly) on the provincial and federal governments and their general asshattery with regards to our liquor laws, but last night it got pointed, quick.
The new interpretation of long-standing legislation stands to effect hundreds of local charities (that are already seriously pinched) and came to light on Tuesday when Victoria’s much loved Belfry Theatre nixed its annual fundraiser after a civil servant quoted the letter of the re-interpreted law.
“The Liquor Control and Licensing Act requires all holders of a special occasion license to purchase or obtain their products from the BC Liquor Distribution Branch or an authorized manufacturer or agent,” wrote a Deputy GM at the LCLB to the Belfry on October 18th. “It is unfortunate that the Belfry Theatre made plans to accept and auction off wine from individual donors because this is clearly prohibited. Provincial liquor laws and policies expressly prohibit organisations from soliciting bottles of liquor from individuals to be auctioned for charity [...] I am unable to reconsider the decision to allow donated product by individuals because it is specifically prohibited.”
Since this is the consequence of a policy decision based on the re-interpretation of an existing law, it could very easily be changed without being subject to the painfully slow process of amending existing legislation. The change came in June, and it was clearly not very well considered. Privately donated wines are auctioned off for charity all the time in BC. The auctions raise millions every year for fantastic organisations that depend on the generosity of ordinary citizens to function. The new policy threatens everything from the BC Hospitality Foundation’s service industry safety net to the support of our Olympic athletes through the Gold Medal Plates cooking competitions, and according to John Schreiner:
The now bankrupt Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company used to get about $300,000 a year from the Vancouver International Wine Festival. Most of that money was raised at Festival’s glittering Bacchanalia which includes the auctioning of donated wine. Just last month, the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival signed on to succeed the Playhouse as the wine festival beneficiary. What do you think Bard’s artistic director, Christopher Gage, might the thinking now? “Is this a dagger I see before me?”
More like “Et tu, Brute?”
To put a very fine point on it, this new policy is bullshit, the natural (almost predictable) result of a broken system that only ever consults with the people, organisations, and companies it daily affects except to say “no” with little or no sensible justification.
Expect it to be reversed in 3, 2, 1…
UPDATE: Fixed…well, not really. Our babysitters are being especially vague about it.
Andrew Morrison lives and works in Vancouver as editor-in-chief of Scout, food columnist at the Westender, and National Referee & Judge at the Canadian Culinary Championships. He also contributes regularly to a wide range of publications, radio programs, and television shows on local food, culture and travel; collects inexpensive things; and enjoys rare birds, skateboards, cocktails, shoes, good pastas, many songs, and the smell of camp fires.