Friday, November 23, 2012

LCLB Protecting You From Gang Violence While Your Are Being Robbed by Licensees

Next time you are sitting in a bar or restaurant quietly enjoying your 12-ounce "pint", be sure to say a quiet thank you to the BC Liquor Control and Licensing Branch for allowing you to sip your short-poured brew without fear of being caught in the cross-fire of some violent gang shoot-up.

Yes, apparently LCLB General Manager, Karen Ayers and her crack-force of inspectors are, "focusing on keeping gangs, gang related activities and violence out of licensed establishments" as one of their priorities and therefore they have no time to stop you from being robbed blind by some licensees who see fit to serve you about 60% of what they are promising you as a serving size, this according to an email she sent me October 10, 2012.

Whew, that is relief! Here I thought only fully trained and appropriately armed police officers were protecting us from the bad guys. Now I can again safely venture out and have a beer of unknown quantity knowing liquor inspectors, armed with business cards and a LCLB Licensing Policy Manual, are keeping me safe in this province's local watering holes.

I had emailed Ayers, on behalf of CAMRA Vancouver, asking her, yet again, to direct LCLB liquor inspectors to enforce the law requiring licensees to provide serving size lists for alcoholic beverages in order to protect BC beer consumers who are routinely mislead and often lied to about the volume of beer they are being served. CAMRA Vancouver has been pressing this serving size issue since launching their "Fess Up to Serving Sizes" (FUSS) Campaign a year ago but have been consistently told by Ayers and Rich Coleman, the Liberal Minister responsible for the liquor portfolio, that protecting consumers from being cheated deceived and over-charged is not something they feel they need to address.

Ayers and Coleman have consistently stated that the LCLB has had four key public safety priorities: over-serving, serving to minors, over-crowding and the sale of illegal alcohol. Now you can add keeping gangs, gang activity and violence out of licensed establishments to that list. As a result of focusing on these priorities they have advised me, because of limited resources, they cannot address less important issues, such as protecting alcohol consumers' rights even though to do so is apart of their licensing policies. But somehow, in between sending 18-year-old kids who look 25 into bars, restaurants and liquor stores in order to trap licensees into serving minors and focusing on keeping gangs out of licensed establishments, the LCLB has had time to ensure public safety is maintained by tackling such important issues such as prohibiting a restaurant from allowing patrons to enjoy a burger and a beer while playing video games.

The LCLB are so arbitrary in what laws they enforce and liquor inspectors so prone to interpreting the laws to suit their needs, that it is laughable at times. I sat down with one liquor inspector last Spring to talk about holding a cask festival and it was quite obvious that the inspector had no idea about the laws he was supposed to be enforcing. The directives he was giving, to comply with the law, had absolutely nothing to do with the LCLB licensing policies that applied to the situation and myself and others at the meeting had to correct the liquor inspector several times. This same inspector has been known to tell restaurant employees that when their establishment is showing a televised Canuck's game, they are not to cheer when the Canucks score a goal as this may incite patrons to over-consume alcohol in their excitement.

And this is the type of person who is out there preventing gang related activities and violence in licensed establishments? He has time time throw a wet blanket on bartender-server hockey enthusiasts but no time to make sure you are getting what you ordered and paid for.

I understand the LCLB's focus on important issues like over-serving, but even here Ayers confused me with her explanation that, "(i)t is the duty of all licensees and their staff to provide safe and responsible liquor service. They are responsible for ensuring patrons are not over-served during a visit to their establishment, regardless of serving sizes."

Okay, the LCLB cannot deal with such trivial issues such as blatant robbery and deception because they have to concentrate on ensuring licensees are not over-serving, yet licensees are responsible for policing themselves in regards to liquor service and ensuring patrons are not over-served.

Things that make you go hmmmmm....

Ayers did say in her email that, "if someone is upset with serving sizes at their local restaurant or bar they can make a formal complaint to this (LCLB) branch and the area inspector will follow up with that establishment."

With the added responsibility of curbing gang violence, it sounds to me like the liquor inspectors will be too busy to deal with our complaints...maybe this is a job for the Pint Police.

If you want change, get vocal, get involved. If the LCLB gets continuous complaints about licensees who are misrepresenting their serving sizes, or not telling you how much they are serving, the LCLB will be forced to do what they should be doing as a regular part of their duties, that being protecting the alcohol consumers of BC.

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