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

Co-creatorsAdrianna Hatton and Malcolm McKenzie stand next to the little free library revealed Sunday at 9710 First St. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Literary crowd helps opens little free library in Sidney

Located at 9710 First St., the book sharing box features original art and reclaimed wood

Deep Cove Elementary School principal Shelley Hardcastle (right) and vice-principal Mary Kaercher help to restock Reay Creek with fish – in this case, coho fry – after a recent bleach spill killed hundreds of fish. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
North Saanich’s Deep Cove Elementary School helps to restock Sidney’s Reay Creek

Restocking followed bleach spill that killed hundreds of fish in creek

A new report pegs the annual cost of hiring a third party to monitor use of pickleball courts in North Saanich at $12,000. (Black Press Media file photo).
North Saanich could end up hiring third party to monitor pickleball courts

Other options up for consideration include use of cameras and timed locks

The barred owl is the most likely to be spotted in the south Island. (Ann Nightingale photo)
Barred owls dominate Greater Victoria owl-scape

Western screech owl population decimated, partly due to barred owls

Between June 1 and 7, 168 net unconditional sales were made for properties in the VREB region. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria home sales slightly behind last June’s pace

Benchmark value of single-family home in Greater Victoria tops $1 million

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read