Judge gives Kamotiq Inn second chance, grants appeal

Board tries to cancel restaurant’s liquor licence



Iqaluit’s Kamotiq Inn is appealing a Nunavut Liquor Licencing Board decision to cancel the restaurant’s liquor licence.

The board’s Mar. 23 written decision was based on the restaurant’s past violations under the Fire Prevention Act and the Liquor Act. The decision came one week before the licence expired on Apr. 1. The red, igloo-shaped restaurant continues to serve alcohol with food under an interim licence.

The matter came before the Nunavut Court of Justice this week.

Judge Calvin Tallis ruled that the liquor board breached a “duty of fairness” by failing to allow the Kamotiq’s owners to properly defend themselves.

Marcel and Lore Mahe had less than five days to prepare a written submission in their defence.

“The board must reconsider and hear the Kamotiq Inn’s concerns,” Tallis said.

Tallis ordered the respondent, the Nunavut Department of Justice, to pay $1,000 toward the applicant’s court costs.

Despite the breach, the judge noted that the popular eating and drinking establishment received repeated warnings from the fire marshal’s office. Indeed, the restaurant has failed to comply with fire marshal orders since 1998, court records say.

The liquor board’s Mar. 23 letter, signed by Terrine Greenwood, then the acting manager of liquor licencing and enforcement, cited but did not specify the restaurant’s failure to comply with Liquor Act requirements. The letter refers to the Kamotiq’s “persistent failure” to carry out orders made by the fire marshal.

“It is not in the best interest of the public to renew your dining room licence …. As of April 1, 2003 you will no longer be legally entitled to sell alcohol in your establishment,” Greenwood wrote.

The Mahe’s immediately requested an interim liquor licence when they heard about the cancelled liquor licence.

Fire marshal Gerald Pickett said the orders have since been met and the building is up to code.

Mahe was not in court this week. He was contacted by Nunatsiaq News in Ottawa.

“[The board] jumped the gun,” Mahe said, adding he was reluctant to comment further because of the appeal.

“What I don’t understand is the connection between the fire marshal and the liquor board’s ability to refuse a licence renewal application.”

Losing the lucrative licence would mean financial ruin for the Kamotiq Inn. “We could probably stay open but we wouldn’t make enough money to exist,” Mahe said.

Kamotiq manager Louis DeCouto said the same thing in an affidavit filed March 27.

“Our inability to serve alcohol will have a significant impact on our business. We are not open for breakfast and most of our business is in the evening when customers are more likely to have a drink with their meals,” the statement says.

The Mahes have fought the Nunavut liquor board’s decision with the help of lawyer Susan Cooper.

“Until the delivery of the letter of Mar. 23 the [Mahes] had no indication their application might be denied,” Cooper said in her submission to Judge Tallis.

Even though this is a liquor board matter, it went before the courts because there is no board-approved appeal process.

A meeting between the liquor review board and the Mahes had not been set at press-time. The board’s next scheduled meeting is in October in Iqaluit.

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