Regina restaurant fined for serving alcohol without food
A local Regina restaurant believes the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority may not have enough people to do its job.
Flip Eatery was fined in December for serving customers beer without a meal. This type of service is a violation of any restaurant's liquor license unless they have a separate lounge area. It's a seldom-laid charge that's drumming up a new round of complaints about the province's liquor regulations which are frequently referred to as "antiquated" and "outdated."
Flip Eatery opened late last year in Regina's downtown and co-owner Timothy Martin says the "food-forward" restaurant was designed around a big, beautiful bar.
"The law is written and I'm wrong so I will accept that but I think at the end of the day it's really unfortunate," he commented.
Martin admits he hoped the space would become a logical spot for downtown workers to stop at the end of the day, have a drink, and unwind before going home. Hearing him talk about those plans in a media interview apparently raised flags at SLGA last December.
"It was a case of two gentleman coming in, ordering two pints each with beer nuts on the side and that goes against what it states," he said, noting that beer nuts are ruled out as food.
"Apparently that still falls within the lines of being delinquent so I accepted the ruling but again that's why I asked for the meeting, so I could have clarification on these things," Martin said.
He freely admits he was ignorant of the specificity of the regulations but he accepts the ruling because it is the law.
SLGA's David Morris can't speak to the specific case but he says SLGA inspectors make a point of visiting new businesses and responding to what they see and hear from the public.
"Part of our regular day to day business is making sure the province's 1600 liquor permitted establishments are following rules, so we follow up on any complaints that the public may bring to our attention," Morris explained.
The specific regulation about not serving alcohol without a meal has been well-known to restaurant owners and staff in the past but it's hard to say if that's still the case. SLGA's records show that particular regulation isn't often enforced.
Flip is actually the only Regina restaurant to be cited for that violation in the last two years.
As a new restaurant owner, Martin admits he has other issues with the province's liquor laws namely restrictions around infusing and aging booze.
He is worried SLGA doesn't have enough inspectors to do its job properly. He insists it's common knowledge that some restaurants get away with openly violating some laws.
"This is something that we're all aware of and that's where the frustrations for us as business owners come in. We look in another direction and we're wondering why we're being held accountable and maybe the other guys aren't," Martin said.
On SLGA's behalf, Morris insists he's just a spokesperson and he can't address the question of staffing concerns.
"We do have inspectors right across the province that do have a regular schedule of inspections and businesses that they visit and follow up with as well as with any complaints that we might receive from the public," Morris noted.
There may be a light at the end of the tunnel for Martin and other restaurants like Beer Brothers that have been vocal about making changes to liquor regulations.
Morris explained that SLGA is conducting a liquor regulatory review. They are looking at several of the current regulations including the law that says restaurants can't serve alcohol without a meal.
"The results of that review are expected later this summer so we are looking at all of our regulations and this would be one of them as well," Morris explained.
Edited by News Talk Radio's Adriana Christianson