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One of the owners of the Lawrence Avenue building is East End Hells Angel, Damiano Dipopolo.
One of the owners of the Lawrence Avenue building is East End Hells Angel, Damiano Dipopolo.

Liquid Zoo owner speaks out

by - Story: 50638

The co-owner of the Liquid Zoo in Kelowna says he's the victim of guilt by association.

The B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB) has yanked the nightclub's liquor license after determining that the establishment is linked to organized crime under a policy implemented in 2005 that defines who is "fit and proper" to hold a liquor license.

One of the owners of the Lawrence Avenue building is East End Hells Angel, Damiano Dipopolo.

Dipopolo is friends with Tony Raffele.

Raffele owns part of the building and runs the club with another partner.

He says that he's not a member of the Hells Angels.

"The only association I have with Dipopolo is that we grew up together. I've got my own way of life. We invested in that building five years ago and that's the problem with the Liquor Board. It's trying to say that I'm associated with the Hells Angels."

Despite the implied links to the Hells Angels, Raffele insist he's not an outlaw biker.

"I don't hang around with the Hells Angels. I barely hang out with Mr. Dipopolo. He's a business partner in one real estate investment. That's it."

Raffele says his club has never run into trouble with the LCLB and that he first became aware that his club was the focus of a Liquor Board investigation last July. He adds that he's always cooperated with the authorities.

"I've been running that club for 4.5 years with not one violation with the Liquor Board. I have a security camera system there that I let the RCMP use. We work with the RCMP to keep the idiots out of the club."

And he wonders why the authorities have decided to act now.

"They came to us 4.5 years ago with the same thing. I disputed it and never heard back from them."

Raffele, who claims to have three immediate family members on the Vancouver Police Force, says he's in the process of buying out Dipopolo's share in the building.

"I'm actually in the process of buying him out due to the headaches its caused. He will no longer be a landlord there. It could be the solution."

He adds that the real victims of the LCLB's decision are the 30-plus employees who have been laid-off because of the closure.

The LCLB says the Liquid Zoo's liquor license has been temporarily reverted back to the original licensees who have two weeks to prove they own or lease the building.

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