Organizers say B.C. liquor board to blame for cancelled Tofino festival
A popular Vancouver Island festival has cancelled its 2020 edition after difficulty with B.C.’s liquor regulation board.
The Tofino Food and Wine Festival would be hosting its 18th year next year, but organizers announced on Friday that it won’t go ahead.
“It felt unfair ... it was a really hard decision to make,” said festival producer Kira Rogers.
Rogers said the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch was obstructive, hostile, intimidating and rude when organizers were trying to get a permit last year for the festival.
“They wanted us to provide extra information that we never had to provide before,” said Rogers.
In September, Rogers said festival organizers were mailed a notice with a fine for $9,000 stating the festival endangered public safety.
A spokesperson for the branch tells CTV News Vancouver Island that they understand the importance of working with festival organizers through B.C. to provide safe liquor services at different events.
“However, the LCRB is generally unable to comment on specific concerns due to privacy and administrative fairness,” said the spokesperson.
Rogers said those responsible for the Tofino festival have always been very cautious.
“We practice 150 per cent due diligence, we have loads of security there, professional wine reps pouring the alcohol, we have tons of volunteers, we have the fire chief and paramedics on-site, and we have a safe ride home program,” she said.
Jason Hyde, an independent wine broker who has participated in the festival for years, said he was devastated when he heard the news.
“It is an event that has been held for many, many years,” he said. “A lot of the winemakers like to attend this because we are showcasing our wines and it is a world-class event.”
Rogers says the Tofino Food and Wine Festival sells 700 tickets and normally sells out within five minutes.
“If they make it this difficult … no one wins,” said Rogers.
She hopes going forward the LCRB will work to be more encouraging and less restricting.
“To see an event like this or any others fall to the wayside because of some bureaucracy is a mistake we should try to mitigate,” said Hyde.
The future of the festival is still unclear, but Rogers said “never say never” when asked about it making a return in 2021.