Wine store's lawsuit demands Manitoba cut off online 'bootleggers'
Winnipeg retailer Banville & Jones says regulators do little to stop flow of cheaper wine into province
A Winnipeg wine store is suing alcohol regulators in the province, alleging they are allowing online retailers to sell wine to Manitobans at a discount and siphon off customers from local brick-and-mortar businesses — and accusing the online retailers of "bootlegging."
Banville & Jones, a wine shop on St. Mary's Road, is suing the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba and Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries for "turning a blind eye" to out-of-province alcohol retailers.
Online wine sellers don't have to pay provincial levies or taxes, says the shop's statement of claim, which was filed Jan. 25.
That means they can sell wine at a discount, Banville & Jones Wine Co. says, while red tape prevents local wine shops from matching their prices.
"There is extreme danger to the viability of Banville's survival and profitability."
Banville & Jones is demanding the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority — the agency that regulates and enforces alcohol rules in the province to protect public safety — investigate and charge online wine retailers for skirting rules and selling to customers in Manitoba.
The store also wants the authority and Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries — the Crown corporation that regulates the alcohol retail market — to pay damages in the form of lost sales.
Both agencies said Tuesday they had not yet received the statement of claim and declined to comment further while the matter is before the courts.
None of Banville & Jones's allegations have been proven in court.
'Operating illegally' and 'bootlegging': lawsuit
Manitobans can buy wine three ways in Manitoba: at liquor stores, at specialty wine stores and at specialty food and wine stores.
Only eight private wine stores operate in Manitoba — six wine stores, and two food and wine stores — the maximum amount allowed under provincial regulations. Each store is licensed through the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority and all the wine they sell must be purchased through Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries.
"Any other entity selling alcohol in the province of Manitoba is operating illegally and committing the practice colloquially known as bootlegging," the lawsuit says.
Online companies in other parts of Canada, the United States and Europe are increasing the amount of wine sold and shipped to customers in Manitoba, Banville & Jones says.
"Given the growth of internet-based entities, this is and has become a very serious problem for this industry of private wine stores."
The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba and Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries have 20 days to file a statement of defence once served the statement of claim.