by Collette Deschenes
Watch out Nova Scotians. You might be treated like a criminal accused of bootlegging if you happen to operate in-store brewing services. Nova Scotia is completely backwards with their antiquated liquor laws and the recent injunction by the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation on in-store wine and beer making is a classic example.
In 2011, Nova Scotia’s NDP government granted legislation against in-store brewing. This legislation gives the NSLC the authority to obtain an injunction against any businesses found operating, ‘u-vint’ or in-store brewing services.
Recently, the province’s crown liquor corporation, and monopoly on liquor sales, set out to put an end to the u-vint operations at the Wine Kitz franchise in Halifax. The in-store brewing service at Wine Kitz offers up their space, allowing customers to make their wine in-store. It’s a convenient option for customers who may not have the ability, or space, to make wine at home. Customers can enjoy their own wine, without having to pay the high liquor store prices. The public has been clear that they support u-vint services. Despite the obvious demand, the provincial government has no plans of stepping in.
The Wine Kitz case was adjourned until January 28th, giving owner Ross Harrington time to prepare his argument against the NSLC. Harrington said in a recent interview that if the injunction goes through, it will inevitably kill his business. He will be forced to make layoffs and cut staff hours. That is the sad reality of this senseless regulation. Wine Kitz is not alone in their fight against the injuction[i]. There are three wine and beer stores currently fighting against the province’s monopoly liquor corporation. These businesses are spending their time and resources to fight against this regulation.
Five other provinces have moved out of the prohibition days and into the present. Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Ontario, British Columbia and Saskatchewan all allow retailers to legally operate in-store brewing services. These provinces recognize in-store brewing as a viable service benefiting both businesses and consumers. The u-vint Nova Scotia website[ii], dedicated to informing Nova Scotians about u-vint operations, states that on-site winemaking stores in Nova Scotia’s neighbouring provinces, New Brunswick and PEI, ‘have increased employment practices, paid increased provincial & federal taxes and increased business support to wholesales distributors and trucking firms’. If u-vint operations contribute to the economy, provide consumers with alternatives and grow businesses, where is the harm? Well the NSLC claims that the regulation protects other wine kit sellers from unfair competition. In reality, the NSLC is self-interested. They want to protect themselves against their perceived competition.
This week just so happens to be dubbed ‘red tape awareness week’ by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. A week dedicated to creating awareness about the regulatory burden on small businesses. Nova Scotia earned a grade of ‘D’ in the CFIB’s national ‘Red Tape Report Card,[iii]’ showing no improvement since the 2012 report. The report stated that while Nova Scotia was ‘once a leader in regulatory reform, the government’s long-standing commitment to reducing red tape has largely stalled.’ It’s time for the province to stop stalling and move forward in their efforts to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses.
Moving forward, Nova Scotia needs to eliminate excessive regulations and red tape that stifle growth. We need our businesses to prosper. The province claims to support businesses and that ‘jobs start here’ yet legislation like this stops businesses from prospering and creating jobs. It’s time for Nova Scotia to step back into the 21st century.