Downtown Victoria restaurant fined $7K for serving beer to minor: liquor branch

Downtown Victoria restaurant fined $7K for serving beer to minor: liquor branch
File photo.

A restaurant and bar in downtown Victoria has been fined $7,000 for serving alcohol to a minor, according to B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch.

Little Jumbo on Fort Street, which opened in 2013, is facing an infraction following the alleged incident that happened on March 24, 2023, the branch says in a decision document.

That’s when two liquor inspectors met with a “minor agent” outside the restaurant.

Around 5:03 p.m., one of the inspectors entered the restaurant, was greeted by a host and sat at a table. Then they gave the OK to the other inspector for the minor to enter too. Around 5:04 p.m. the minor entered, was greeted by the host and asked to be seated at the bar.

The branch hires agents between 16 and 18 years of age to help conduct random inspections of establishments that serve liquor, and these minors are told to be honest, telling restaurant staff they do not have their ID with them if asked.

However, according to the branch, the minor at Jumbo was never asked to show ID when they ordered Pathway Pale Ale, and they were subsequently served the beer.

The legal drinking age in B.C. is 19.

“The male bartender did not ask the minor agent for identification and proceeded to provide the minor agent with a tall clear glass containing an amber liquid. The restaurant menu showed ‘Pathway Pale Ale’ as 16 ounces of beer with 5% alcohol by volume,” according to the decision.

Prior to the beer order, the inspection had moved a table or two closer to the bar to have the best view of the interaction at the bar.

Not long after, the minor paid and left, which they were instructed to do.

“At approximately 5:07 p.m., the minor agent advised the male bartender that something had come up and asked for the bill. The male bartender gave the minor agent the bill showing a cost of $9.20 for the beer…” reads the decision.

Then the inspector began walking to the bar to speak with the bartender and identify himself, providing his business card and asking for the bartender’s Serving It Right “SIR” certificate. The bar’s manager then provided the inspector with the certification.

“The liquor inspector advised both the bartender and the bar manager that the Branch had just conducted a Minors as Agent Compliance Inspection, and unfortunately, the bartender had served liquor to the minor agent. The bartender provided the liquor inspector with a receipt for the liquor served to the minor agent…” reads the decision.

Restaurant has ‘excellent track record of compliance,’ says owner

Little Jumbo’s owner, the licensee, testified to the branch at a Sept. 19 hearing that the restaurant, which touts itself as a fine-dining experience, has had an “excellent track record of compliance” since opening.

The bar’s manager, meanwhile, provided a letter to the board stating this was the bartender’s first shift alone after four shadowing shifts.

The bartender says he previously worked at establishments in Ontario that required ID at the door, and it’s also noted in the decision that he has bad eyesight.

In the letter, the bartender said he “was much more focused on the behaviour of the actual board officer [the liquor inspector] who seemed very sketchy, moving tables, being weird, than I was in anything else.”

He said the inspector “stuck out and was behaving oddly and was quite distracting. His demeanour seemed off I was certainly focused on that.”

According to the board, along with the inspector’s behaviour, the licensee said a lone minor requesting beer immediately after their opening time is “an anomaly in their business.”

But Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch general manager Nerys Poole says neither “address the question of due diligence.”

Poole says the licensee “failed to meet the bare minimum in its training and its policies and practices.”

In the decision, she adds, “The bartender here may have been distracted. The bartender here may have poor eyesight. The restaurant may require better lighting. The bartender, because of his experience in Ontario, may have assumed that ID was checked by the host at the door.

“None of these provide evidence of due diligence. They are merely attempts to explain why the bartender served the minor without first requesting ID.”

A first contravention of this type “provides a range of penalties,” including a license suspension for seven to 11 days and/or a fine of $7,000-$11,000, says the branch. So it proposed Little Jumbo have its license suspended for seven days or pay a fine of $7,000.

The licensee in the hearing stated they prefer a monetary penalty, which must be paid by Nov. 21.

The complete decision is online here.

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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