Supreme Court rules against Liquid Zoo

A Supreme Court judge has upheld a ruling levied against a Kelowna nightclub after a patron was found to be wearing gang clothing.

Last year, RCMP officers conducted a routine walkthrough of the Liquid Zoo on Jan. 12. They noticed a man wearing a black baseball cap with the number 113 in red letters on the front and the back of the hat embossed with the words “Kingpin Crew MC”.

The hat was in direct violation of conditions put in place by the Liquor Control Branch, stated Justice Geoff Barrow, which forbid patrons from wearing any clothing with gang affiliated identification after the nightclub was almost sold to a member of the Hells Angels motorcycle club in 2004.

As a result, the branch refused to transfer the liquor license and the sale had to be unwound. Years of litigation followed and owner David Habib finally reopened the nightclub on Jan. 9, 2012, three days before the incident took place.

Officers showed the hat to Habib that same night and he later testified before the adjudicator that he had not seen the man wearing the hat and would have removed it – for his part, the patron told the officer he had the hat in his pocket when he came into the bar. Habib also testified he knew of the Kingpin Crew, but believed them to be a motorcycle club and not a criminal gang.

A notice of enforcement action was issued a few days later and a hearing was held on July 20 before an ad hoc enforcement adjudication officer and a decision was issued on Aug. 15 that found the infraction had been proven and the Liquid Zoo’s liquor license was suspended for three days.

Habib applied for a judicial review of the decision, arguing he did not see the hat and believed the conditions only applied if a member of his staff witnessed a patron wearing Hells Angles clothing. However the judge rejected these claims, agreeing with the adjudicator that Habib should have used due diligence to determine what constituted gang clothing.

Barrow also acknowledged there was an element of unfairness in the process, but would not grant relief on that basis. He found it unreasonable to impose the maximum penalty as prescribed by the regulations – and that issue will be remitted to the adjudicator for reconsideration.

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