A Red Deer nightclub has lost its appeal to keep its business licence and will have to shut down after concerns were raised over public safety.
In its Nov. 6 written decision, the Red Deer Appeal and Review Board said it would uphold its decision to revoke the licence for Tequila Nightclub. The revocation is effective seven days from the issuance of this decision, but the City of Red Deer is seeking legal advice on when that date is because of when the nightclub operator may have been notified.
If the nightclub chooses to continue to operate without a licence, it would be fined every day it operates, according to the City of Red Deer Inspections and Licensing Department.
“The licence to operate a drinking establishment is a privilege afforded to residents of the City of Red Deer under the bylaw,” said the board. “It is not a right. Businesses are expected to comply with licensing requirements and rectify deficiencies in a timely manner.”
The board also said that the conditions imposed upon the business licence in February had still not been completed, even after a full seven months had passed.
Inspection and Licensing decided to permanently revoke the nightclub’s business licence in September. The downtown Tequila Nightclub remained open two nights a week after the appeal was filed by Quan Diep of Calgary and his lawyer Dana Carlson of Red Deer.
The board said the appellant maintained throughout the appeal hearing that he provides (or it is his intent to provide) a safe environment for the public to gather, consume alcohol and socially recreate. However, the board felt the first steps to accomplish this would have been compliance with conditions imposed by the city.
On Sept. 10, the city issued a letter to the appellant, saying that the business licence would be permanently revoked. The letter indicated that conditions had not been fully complied with in regards to security, video recorders, metal detectors and access to the nightclub.
The letter also made reference to two alleged breaches of regulations related to public safety, including exceeding licensed capacity and allowing individuals under 18 to be present.
Concerns regarding Tequila Nightclub were raised in January after a stabbing occurred across the street. As a result of the stabbing, additional security measures were required by the Inspections and Licensing Department for the bar to remain open.
Due to public and police concerns, a team of 18 officers from the Red Deer Public Safety Compliance Team entered the nightclub late on Aug. 21 and into the early morning of Aug. 22. Twelve minors were found. Two members of Red Deer Emergency Services, part of the compliance team, did a head count and determined that around 225 people were inside, when the maximum allowed is 100.
Tequila was charged with a number of violations under the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Act.
During the two hearing dates in October, Diep explained why he should be allowed to stay open. He advised that he is always present on the floor and hands on during operation of Tequila. He stated there are pre-shift and end-of-night meetings with security staff to review protocols, according to the appeal board’s written decision.
He also conceded the inspection on Aug. 22 was serious and he accepted responsibility for it. However, he disputed the results of the persons count, saying that 147 individuals were counted by security.
Diep also said he was embarrassed that underage patrons were allowed and that staff responsible for checking ID at that time were fired.
He also argued that revocation of the licence was made arbitrarily with no means of measuring whether it was reasonable. Diep also said he has a 10-year history of operating drinking establishments and has never encountered issues to this extent.
Meanwhile, a dozen charges of allowing minors inside the Tequila Nightclub were adjourned in Red Deer provincial court on Tuesday.
Lawyer Dana Carlson, who is representing the owners of the nightclub, asked the court for a month adjournment to allow time for other issues with the City of Red Deer and Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission to be worked out.
Alberta 1476956, a numbered company behind the nightclub, is facing 12 counts of allowing people under the age of majority to enter a licensed establishment where minors are prohibited.
The case returns to court on Dec. 17 when pleas are expected to be entered.