Administrative law – Permits and licences – Suspensions – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Liquor Licensing Board – Judicial review – Compliance with legislation – Standard of review – Correctness – Reasonableness simpliciter
532871 B.C. Ltd. (c.o.b. The Urban Well) v. British Columbia (General Manager, Liquor Control and Licensing Branch),  B.C.J. No. 1821, British Columbia Court of Appeal, August 17, 2005, Prowse, Huddart and Saunders JJ.A.
The Petitioner, 532871 B.C. Ltd. (c.o.b. The Urban Well) is a restaurant in Vancouver that was found to have violated its liquor licence by functioning from time to time as a local watering hole rather than always as a dining establishment. On this appeal, it sought to quash the findings by the General Manager, Liquor Control and Licensing Branch, two instances of contravention and the suspensions assessed for the contraventions.
The manufacture and sale of liquor in British Columbia is administered under the Liquor Control and Licensing Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c.267 and its Regulations. The responsibility for administration of the Act and supervision of all licensed establishments is assigned to the General Manager. On judicial review, the Urban Well argued that the General Manager misinterpreted the Regulations and did not apply the correct legal test and that the imposition of penalties for both contraventions occurring on the same occasion amounted to a double penalty.
The appeal was allowed in part. While imposing penalties for multiple contraventions that occurred at the same time did not amount to a double penalty and the General Manager had the discretion to impose a suspension for a contravention and the opportunity to decline to assess a suspension, the adoption of a default position that assumed the imposition of a suspension in the absence of mitigating circumstances was an incorrect interpretation of the legislation. The standard of review of the General Manager’s decision on the interpretation of the Act and its Regulations was correctness. This was a matter of pure statutory interpretation and the penalties were significant. The General Manager’s interpretation of the food service requirement was correct and the application of a different standard of review would not have made any difference to the result. There was sufficient evidence to support the General Manager’s conclusion that the patrons were not consumers of food. Her decision on the application of the law to the facts was reviewable on the reasonableness standard.
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