Administrative law – Boards and tribunals – Jurisdiction – Bias – Liquor licencing boards – Social issues
994401 NWT Ltd. (c.o.b. Ravens Pub) v. Northwest Territories (Liquor Licensing Board),  N.W.T.J. No. 66, Northwest Territories Supreme Court, August 8, 2002, Richard J.
The Appellant was the licensee of a cocktail lounge, licensed to have 170 patrons in its premises. In November 2001, the Appellant sought the Liquor Licensing Board’s (the “Board”) approval for an expansion of the premises. The Board denied the request. The Appellant appealed pursuant to section 23 of the Liquor Act. The Appellant argued: (1) the Board exceeded its jurisdiction; (2) the Board erred in law in denying the Appellants’ request to appear personally before the Board; (3) the Board erred in law in failing to give reasons for its decision; and (4) the Board erred in law in showing bias against the Appellant.
On the issue of jurisdiction, the court determined that the Board acted within its jurisdiction and committed no error of law in reliance on the social problems existing in the proposed location for the Appellant’s premises. Further, there should be no interference with a statutory tribunal honestly endeavouring to comply with the duties and responsibilities which the Legislature has seen fit to impose on it. The purpose of the Liquor Act is to regulate the sale, purchase, supply, possession and consumption of liquor in the Northwest Territories. The Act establishes a liquor licensing board and grants to it specific powers and responsibilities for the issuing of licenses and permits to individuals in corporations to sell liquor to the public. The discretion granted to the Board is wide in scope and, provided the exercise of that discretion is not inconsistent with the Act, the Board’s power is not restricted to a mere administrative assessment of the Applicant’s qualifications and fire and safety issues within the proposed premises. It is relevant, proper and important to consider the existence of any social problems in the approximate area when making a decision regarding a liquor license. Considerations which focus on public safety and public peace are consistent with the purpose of the Liquor Act and the intention of the Legislature. The appeal was dismissed.
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