What Hornby Island resident Stephen Bishop wants is simple.
He wants to sell wine made at his winery on Hornby Island to dinner guests at his family-owned Sea Breeze Lodge, also on Hornby Island.
But, he is not allowed.
The provincial tied-house law prohibits Bishop from selling, promoting or even giving away his wine, made at Carbrea Vineyard and Winery, at the Sea Breeze Lodge — which are separated by a mere handful of kilometres — because he also owns a share of the family lodge.
“The guests that come and stay here and eat here, that’s the question I get asked so many times: ‘Can I get a bottle of your wine for dinner?’ And I’ve got to sit there and explain this law that I don’t understand to everybody,” said Bishop. “It’s called tied-house, it was put into place in prohibition days and it’s restricting me from doing it.”
The law was designed to stop a liquor producer from creating a monopoly by cutting down competition and selection in licensed establishments.
Bishop started his vineyard about 10 years ago, when he did not have shares in the family lodge yet, and he figured he could sell his wine in the dining room of the lodge as well as at his winery and various wine stores on Vancouver Island.
But about seven years ago, when his grapes matured enough that he could start making product, he also received a share in the lodge, and found out that he couldn’t sell his wine there.
He can sell it at his winery, and if he had a restaurant on the same property as his winery, he could sell it there, but because it’s a separate property, selling the product at the lodge is not allowed.
Bishop has been pushing government to change the law for the past seven years.
“It was denied, denied, denied. Every year since I’m up there talking to them about it and they say, ‘Oh, yeah, something’s going to happen, something’s going to happen,’ — it still hasn’t happened, of course,” he said, adding he met with past Comox Valley MLA Stan Hagen and they went down to legislature together to try to have the law changed.
“Stan of course was a total supporter for trying to get it changed, too, and at that point again with Stan and the liquor manager, everyone was saying ‘yeah it’s a ridiculous law and it should be changed.’ And so, again, that’s kind of the scenario the I’ve been dealing with over the years now.”
Rich Coleman, the minister in charge of the liquor control and licensing branch did not respond to a request for comment in time for the Record’s deadline. But, he had recently told another media outlet he supports changing the law, though he couldn’t give a timeline on when this may happen, or whether it would happen at all.
Meanwhile, Bishop said he would be happy if the law could be changed to have some sort of clause rather than fully eliminating it.
“Even a situation where it’s a certain percentage of my wine on my wine list, so whether it be 20 per cent or 25 per cent maximum, something like that would work out totally fine,” said Bishop, adding he has about 20 wines on his wine list, about 10 of which are B.C. wines, and would he keep 20 kinds of wine available if he could sell his own wine there. “The government would say they’re protecting my competition over me monopolizing my wine in my restaurant, well I can’t even compete — I’m not allowed to compete.”