Vancouver restaurant owners plan legal challenge against liquor-service bylaw

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      A Vancouver restaurateur is trying to persuade others in his industry to back a legal challenge against a proposed new Vancouver restaurant bylaw.

      On October 8, council voted unanimously in favour of a motion allowing restaurants to serve liquor until 1 a.m. on weekdays and until 2 a.m. on weekends.

      In return, the city will charge every food-primary licence holder an annual fee of $3 per seat. Council also voted in favour of  asking the director of legal services to return with a bylaw that reflects council's wishes.

      In an October 21 e-mail addressed to his “friends in the restaurant industry”, James Iranzad claimed that the city slipped in two “very critical subsections” at the 11th hour into the proposed bylaw extending liquor hours of service.

      He stated that the first affects the 20 percent of food-primary-licensed restaurants that are allowed to close later than 1 a.m.

      Iranzad, operating partner of Corkscrew Entertainment, stated that as of January 1, 2010, the city will require them to close at 1 a.m. on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends.

      This, he clamed, will have the effect of stripping these restaurants of a portion of their licences between Monday and Thursday.

      He noted that they “undoubtedly paid a premium” for these licences, and the city won’t allow any grandfathering of their right to remain open after 1 a.m. on weekdays.

      In addition, Iranzad wrote, all restaurants will be required to sell as much food as alcohol, and drinks could only be served with a meal. He stated that this means, in effect, that the old 50-50 rule is back.

      “The days of ordering a quality bottle of wine would be over, by law,” he claimed.

      Iranzad pointed out that this will affect every restaurant in the city. He added that council has also eliminated past loopholes by changing a previous 24-hour sampling to eight-hour sampling.

      “This now gives them the power to put all of us under a single umbrella and effectively fine or suspend us at will,” he wrote. “Regardless of the economic conditions of the past year, margin structures and price ceilings make it virtually impossible financially for the majority of restaurants to bend to such a blanket policy, or for guests to have to consume the amount of food that would be necessary for restaurants to survive, let alone be profitable.”

      Iranzad’s company owns three West Side restaurants:  Hell’s Kitchen, the Flying Tiger, and Abigail’s Party.

      “We have retained a highly experienced consultant in Randy Olafson as well as legal counsel from Lawson Lundell and are planning to file a writ with the Supreme Court of BC to block these two subsections,”  Iranzad wrote. “Council is well aware of the tenuous nature of these measures, and their questionable tactics, in setting them into place as subsections, and have thus placed a ”˜bucket clause’ allowing them to remove the subsections easily without compromising the rest of the bylaw, or suffering too much embarrassment should we manage to organize ourselves enough to block them. They are betting on our apathy and lack of organization.”

      Iranzad stated that a “preliminary group” met last week and will regroup later this week, likely on Thursday (October 29).

      “We need every restaurant operator possible to attend this coming meeting so as to allow us to work together and present a powerful message,” he wrote. “A contribution of $250 per restaurant will be requested to fund our legal counsel and consultant and I can assure that is a paltry amount in comparison to the fines, trouble, and loss of business we will all face if this measure gets passed into law.”

      He noted that the per-seat fee will fund a task force of inspectors, which he described as “food police”, with a “sole mandate” to enforce the 50/50 law.

      Iranzad also stated that council intends on  allowing fines up to $15,000.

      “I don’t have to tell you how punitive and disproportionate of an amount that is,” he added.

      He wrote that the city was motivated to do this because it’s broke “and this is an effective way to raise money through fees and fines.

      Iranzad  also claimed that liquor-industry lobbying also played a role.

      “The liquor primary lobby, very well organized and funded, has put a great deal of pressure to have the two subsections listed above added to the extension of hours bylaw to make it almost impossible for the public to consume alcohol at food primary establishments, particularly late at night, without breaking the law,” he stated.



      Craig McIvor

      Oct 24, 2009 at 1:54pm

      I hope Iranzad's legal challenge succeeds. As I see it most liquor primary places are on Granville, while most food primary spots (including Iranzad's restaurants) aren't. I don't want to have to go to Granville to grab drinks on Friday night, and it shouldn't be necessary. It's just another draconian, restrictive, reactionary measure from our city counsel. Honestly sometimes I feel like I'm living in the deep south.

      ezekiel bones

      Oct 24, 2009 at 4:02pm

      yeah the 50/50 rule is ridiculous. The fact is, late at night, people are more interested in a few drinks than a huge meal. I think it is awesome for there to be establishments where one can sit down, have a few drinks and a bit of food and talk with people.

      This law will make establishments that want to serve people like me into outlaws. It is ridiculous. Stupid. Most of Europe has way less anal retentive liquor laws and way fewer problems with hooligans - why?

      I think the idiot rules around alcohol just make problem clients worse.

      Anti Commi

      Oct 25, 2009 at 7:03am

      Well Vancouver your control freeks are at it again. All owners should band together and hit city hall and tell them idiots to back off or else. The olympics are coming is one tool. Sometimes you have to fight and it may hurt but in the long run it just may give the owners (tax payers) their businesses back. God it makes me sick when I hear people who put their money and efforts out in a very competitive business hog tied by over controlling clowns in any type of government. They are all control freaks, period.
      One thing the non owners should realize is all these idiotic rules and hidden costs (3 dollar per seat per year fee) are passed onto the customer. Also the 50/50 rule as Bones mentions puts the cost of everything up because sales drop.

      new bylaw is big step backwards

      Oct 25, 2009 at 11:42am

      I also loath the 50/50 rule. I'm an older fellow and occasionally like a cold beer without having to go to a noisy bar. What is harmful about people being able to do this in a local restaurant?

      Vancouver is world class city (NOT)

      Oct 25, 2009 at 11:49am

      I can't believe that the Vision party would ram a by-law like this through. Their original election campaign was to change Vancouver from being a "no fun city" and now they force the 50/50 rule on us again. What a bunch of hypocrites. Vision Vancouver, you suck! Say goodbye to my vote.


      Oct 25, 2009 at 4:21pm

      What amazes me is why nobody is asking just how this change came about. i.e. who knows who and what they did to get it included?
      Welcome back to the dark ages, Vancouver.

      Terrible Bylaw

      Oct 25, 2009 at 5:54pm

      I agree that this is a terrible bylaw because of the 50/50 rule. I'm a senior citizen and I don't like most bars. I don't ever see myself going to the Granville Street entertainment district. But I do like to have a glass of wine in the restaurant. I'm not sure what group these politicians have in mind when they came up with this rule, but it sure doesn't fit for me. I don't usually vote NPA, but if they promise to overturn the bylaw, I'm going to think about it now.

      no fun city

      Oct 25, 2009 at 9:16pm

      The liquor primary lobby has done a superior job in convincing the city that numerous restaurants are taking business away from the Liquor Primary operators under the guise of acting irresponsibly and outside their LCLB Licensee terms by running as a bar. This lobby has had the ear of many staff members and met with Councillors to drive this and other deleterious points home. The fact that meetings and acceptance of opinion statements were taken in by staff by the LP Lobby (without consultation or any dissemination of this to the industry and the public) is diametrically opposed to what “due process” is all about. As a result of these and other factors, I believe the proposed implementation of the new By-Law is flawed.

      Since 2002 staff has looked at every conceivable angle and piece of information possible and have come up with the proposed legislation just prior to the Olympics. Unique sence of timing. However, there was never any discussion or distribution of information (since the last meetings) to alert those affected that there were planned changes to what was discussed previously that would result in a;

      · 50/50 food to liquor ratio requirement

      · New Enforcement Officers specifically for restaurants (targeting)

      · the ability of the new inspector to look over your invoices and receipts

      · the ability of the new inspector to issue a Violation Notice based on a 50/50 mix

      · No grandfathering and cutting back existing hours of operations from current restaurants

      · new seat fees higher than discussed or anticipated

      · a $75.00 application fee to the City

      · a $110.00 application fee to the Province

      · a $300-$400 sign erected at your restaurant for a 2 week notification period

      · Possibility of refusal of application for extended hours based on notification response.

      The City has not done a convincing job in vetting all the details out prior to the public hearing. The City is still unsure as to what the fines or penalties may be imposed or what form they will take. That will become an amendment to the By-Law once it is passed – that in itself is very dangerous. Thus, due process and the mandatory public (and industry) consultations have not been carried out and the proposed By-Law should be amended prior to enactment or repealed or quashed following enactment.


      Oct 27, 2009 at 7:15pm

      More backward, antiquated, communist thinking by a bunch of retarded, unelected, bureaucrats sitting on their fat cats totally insulated from the real world.


      Oct 28, 2009 at 8:08pm

      Vancouver has a hard time holding their booze, the police do not need something else to do and fast food and cab companies do need to take any more abuse from drunks.