Merridale Cidery closes for one week for selling alcohol to minor

Merridale Cidery closes for one week for selling alcohol to minor
Merridale Cidery & Distillery/Facebook

Merridale Cidery and Distillery says it will be closed for one week after a staff member sold a bottle of cider to a minor.

The minor was involved in the “Minors As Agents” program, established by the B.C. government in 2011. Under this program, the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch hires minors aged 16-to-18 to enter places that sell alcohol and try to purchase alcohol.

While trying to make the purchase, they are not permitted to lie.

Merridale Cidery and Distillery says this is its first infringement since it opened in 1990.

“As much as we regret this unfortunate moment, we are all human and understand that mistakes happen,” Merridale says in a Facebook post.

“We will take this opportunity to learn and grow, and will use this as a teaching opportunity for our staff to follow a better path moving forward. During this brief closure, we will be working on various aspects of our operations, including painting, cleaning, training, revising procedures, and installing new equipment.”

The cidery and distillery will be closed until March 12.

Penalties for a first contravention range from a seven-to-11-day licence suspension and/or a $7,000 to $11,000 monetary penalty, according to the decision by the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch.

The decision says that on July 19, 2023, a 16-year-old minor agent entered Merridale’s store, selected a 1 litre bottle of cider with an alcohol by volume content of six per cent.

The minor agent then went to the cash counter, and the employee asked if he wanted to pay with cash or credit card. The minor then paid with cash and was able to leave.

The decision says the employee did not ask for identification to confirm his age.

Merridale’s floor manager testified that the employee says on July 19 she was not in a “great headspace” because she had just come to work after having dealt with family issues. She had only been working at Merridale for four months as a part time employee at the time of the incident.

After the infraction, she quit her job at Merridale, according to the manager.

Additionally, the manager testified that it is part of their training practices to stress that any customer who looks to be under the age of 35 should be asked for two pieces of ID. However, there are no quizzes or checklists completed as part of the training procedures.

The decision notes that a licensee may not be held liable for the sale of alcohol to a minor if they met their due diligence in ensuring employees are properly trained in not selling to minors, there is adequate signage about not selling to minors, appropriate training manuals, an incident logbook that is regularly used and reviewed, regular staff meetings where compliance is stressed, and written quizzes to ensure employees understand the legal requirements.

The decision says that it does not believe Merridale met its threshold for due diligence in some of these matters.

Therefore it imposed a seven day licence suspension for Merridale.

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

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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