The application by the Victoria Social Club Ltd. (“The Social Club”) for judicial review of a decision of an adjudicator delegated by the general manager of the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch was dismissed where the Court found that the adjudicator’s decision that there had been a contravention of the Liquor Control and Licensing Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 267 was reasonable

Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Liquor Licensing Board – Permits and licences – Suspensions – Adjudication – Interpretation of Evidence – Previous complaints

Victoria Social Club Ltd. (c.o.b. The Social Club) v. British Columbia (General Manager, Liquor Control and Licensing Branch), [2009] B.C.J. No. 373, British Columbia Supreme Court, March 2, 2009, J. K. Bracken J.

On December 1, 2007, the Victoria police received a telephone call from a plain-clothes officer who was in attendance at The Social Club. The nature of the information received was that the night-club was seriously overcrowded and police attendance was requested. Victoria Police Department dispatched three members in uniform to The Social Club. These officers observed that The Social Club was very crowded. At that time, under the terms of the licence that The Social Club operated under, the maximum number of patrons allowed pursuant to the licence was 305. The police conducted a count of the patrons in the club using a mechanical counter and said that on first count the officer counted 453 patrons in the club. A second count was done which resulted in a count of 375 persons plus 47 individuals whom employees of the club said had left during the count. An adjudicator delegated by the general manager of the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch rendered a decision at the conclusion of an enforcement hearing under the Act on July 9, 2008 and held that The Social Club had contravened the Act and Regulations by overcrowding the premises. The adjudicator confirmed the recommended penalty of a 5-day licence suspension. The Social Club sought judicial review of the decision of the adjudicator.

The application for judicial review by The Social Club was dismissed. The Court found that the adjudicator heard evidence from two police officers, the owner of the club and a security manager with respect to whether or not the club was overcrowded. At the conclusion of the hearing of this evidence and argument, the adjudicator found that the club was overcrowded and accepted the police evidence. The Court held that the decision of the adjudicator that the contravention occurred as alleged was a reasonable finding based on the evidence and not a finding that warranted interference. The Social Club argued that the adjudicator improperly considered a Notice of Enforcement Action which included police evidence including a complete list of The Social Club’s past compliance record and allegations of prior alleged contraventions of the Act. The Court found that there was no evidence that the adjudicator made any improper use of this material in reaching the decision on penalty. In his decision, the adjudicator specifically noted that there were no prior contraventions, offences or enforcement action of any type and imposed a penalty in the range for a first contravention for overcrowding. Therefore, the adjudicator’s decision on penalty was reasonable.

In the result, the application by The Social Club was dismissed with costs.

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