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UPDATE: Prince George nightclub's liquor licence suspended for public health order violations

Lambda Cabaret owner could face fines, criminal charges, if club opens despite closure order

The owner of the Lambda Cabaret could face fines, or even criminal charges and jail time, if the Prince George nightclub continues to operate in violation of public health orders.

The nightclub, which opened in violation of provincial public health orders earlier this month, was first ordered closed by Northern Health on Feb. 9. The club continued to operate, in defiance of the closure order. Northern Health rescinded the closure order on Feb. 17, following a change in provincial public health orders allowing bars and clubs to reopen. However, on Feb. 19, Northern Health issued a new closure order for Lambda Cabaret.

Public health officers attended the scene and found Lambda Cabaret to be operating in violation of public health orders this weekend, Northern Health spokesperson Eryn Collins said. Under the new public health orders in effect on Feb. 17, bars and nightclubs can open, but must have a COVID-19 safety plan in place, require proof of vaccination from patrons and require mask wearing inside.

“They’ll continue to follow up, as part of that enforcement process,” Collins said. “There are violation tickets for individuals and establishments which can be imposed.”

A statement issued by the  B.C. Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, which handles communications for the B.C. Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, said the LCRB has suspended the nightclub's liquor licence for a second time.

"LCRB issued a new suspension of Lambda Cabaret’s liquor licence on Feb. 19, 2022 when Northern Health issued a new closure order. The liquor licence is currently suspended in line with the public health closure order," the statement said. "There are specific limited circumstances where LCRB Inspectors may issue violations tickets, including staff of an establishment. Our investigations identify violations and where the evidence supports it, the best course of action to address those violations."

According to information provided by the B.C. government, owners and operators of food and liquor serving premises can be fined $2,300 for failing to follow public health orders.

In addition to public health officers, police, liquor and cannabis inspectors and other provincial agencies can impose the tickets.

“If violation tickets do not act as a deterrent, or in cases of particularly egregious contraventions or for repeat offenders, police can recommend charges in relation to the offence. On conviction, judicial penalties of up to $10,000 and/or one year in prison may be imposed,” the B.C government website says. “The Province is also working with local governments to target individuals and businesses who fail to comply with PHO orders. This may include revoking business or liquor licenses where issues occur.”

Under the B.C. legislation, patrons not wearing masks at the club could be fined $230.

A post on Lambda Cabaret’s Facebook paged, dated Feb. 20 at 1:10 p.m., shows a 10-second video of people dancing at the nightclub with no masks on. The post’s caption reads, “Friday, Saturday February 18 and 19th Zero Mandates !Freedom!”

Signs posted on the door of the nightclub on Wednesday morning said, “Constitutional rights supersede government authority” and “Medical mandates violate human rights.”

The nightclub has repeatedly posted photos and videos on the Lambda Cabaret Facebook page showing people at the club flouting public health orders.

Prince George Chamber of Commerce president Todd Corrigall said the province has “passed the buck” and now it is up to the city to take action.

“It sends a bad message,” Corrigall said. “My biggest concern with this is we have 99.9 per cent of businesses that have adhered to the evolving and revolving rules. You have one business that is flaunting these regulations… and there has been no significant repercussions.”

Many business owners have suffered significant financial losses, or even been forced to close, in order to the “do the right thing for their community,” he said. The message this is sending to those business owners is that they could have defied the rules and faced no significant consequences.

The City of Prince George requires businesses to have business licences to operate, and to keep that licence they must operate within the law, he said.  Lambda Cabaret has been operating despite a closure order and selling liquor illegally, with a suspended liquor licence.

“It sounds like they are not following the rules and regulations set out in the licence requirements to me.”

A spokesperson for the City of Prince George said the matter falls in Northern Health’s jurisdiction, and city bylaw officers were not involved in enforcement at the nightclub. The city has not been approached by Northern Health or LCRB with a request to revoke Lambda Cabaret’s business license, the spokesperson said.

Prince George RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Jennifer Cooper said the RCMP are working to support Northern Health to enforce public health orders.

"(The Prince George RCMP) have partnered with Northern Health to assist in keeping the peace when enforcement officers attend the location on two occasions," Cooper said. "Police responded to two calls for service outside of the nightclub last weekend (Feb.18-19). The incidents were resolved quickly and did not result in any police enforcement."