NSLC spent $30,300 on brief spat with U-Vint operators

The province's Crown-owned liquor agency spent more than $30,300 in its short lived bid to shut down some small wine and beer producing shops in the province, including more than $5,000 on private investigators.

Liquor corporation dropped injunctions against small wine and beer making shops in January

The NSLC argued that small wine producing stores were unregulated and unsafe. (CBC)

The province’s Crown-owned liquor agency spent more than $30,300 in its short lived bid to shut down some small wine and beer producing shops in the province.

The Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. filed an injunction in January against U-Vint operators which allow customers to ferment wine or brew beer on site.

The spat was over regulatory changes from 2011 that allowed the NSLC file the injunctions. It argued the small shops were allowing practices that are unregulated and unsafe.

Ross Harrington says the U-Vint operators shouldn't have had to fight for compensation in the case. (CBC)

The fight instantly sparked public outcry, with many calling it a David and Goliath battle against small business. The NSLC was ordered by the NDP to drop the campaign just weeks later.

But during that brief time, NSLC spent $25,000 on lawyer’s fees paid to McInnes Cooper.

It also spent $5,300 to hire private investigators to go into the stores and examine the operations.

Ross Harrington owns Wine Kitz of Halifax, one of the stores that was temporarily told to stop allowing its onsite fermenting and brewing.

"It’s annoying that they’re wasting taxpayer money," he said.

While Harrington is relieved the dispute was short lived, the U-vint operators are stuck with their own bill.

"Over $31,000," he estimated. "That’s a pretty bitter pill for a small business."

The operators asked the NSLC to pay for their legal costs. NSLC first offered 10 per cent as compensation, then upped that to $5,000.

"At a point you have to say enough’s enough. If they’re going to be that cheap about the whole affair, we’re done with them," Harrington said.

The U-Vint operators accepted the settlement.

"They couldn’t just do the right thing," said Harrington. "Don’t pick a fight and then leave somebody with damages."

Surprising benefit

It seems the surge in publicity that came from the short battle has also sparked a boom in business. Just last week, Harrington hired two more employees to keep up with their new customers.

"In February, we were doing 172 kits, which is just goofy. Last month we did 150."

He credits the public outcry with their win.

"We won the moral victory, we beat the big guy. I cannot hesitate to thank the public of Nova Scotia enough."

The NSLC declined to comment.