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Filmmaker calls $40,000 whisky seizure from Vancouver bar 'a new Prohibition'

When UBC film student Kyu Park heard about the seizure of $40,000 bottles of whisky from a Vancouver restaurant, he knew he had a great idea for a documentary.
UBC filmmaker and whisky lover Kyu Park is making a film about seizures from a Vancouver restaurant.

A South Korean whisky lover and UBC film student has combined his passions to make a film about a Vancouver restaurant that had $40,000 worth of alcohol seized in 2018.

Kyu Park grew up drinking soju, a colourless Korean beverage. But when he moved to Canada several years ago, he decided to give whiskies a taste.

“I started to collect whisky,” he said.

He began learning about the history of Canadian whiskies, including the role Canada played in providing alcohol to the United States in the Prohibition era in the '20s and '30s.

“And voila, I found a new Prohibition-like case in Vancouver,” he said.

That case stems from inspectors, accompanied by police, raiding Vancouver’s Fets Whisky Bar on Jan. 18, 2018. They brought a U-Haul van and spent five hours going through bottles of whisky before carting them off in front of customers.

The operation was code-named Operation Malt Barley.

Restaurant owners Eric and Allura Fergie have maintained the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) prejudged their situation and refused to hand over documentation so the couple could fight the seizures, a petition to the court said.

The following June, the branch fined the business $3,000.

The Fergies asked for a reconsideration but were denied documentation to fight the case. Told to use the freedom-of-information system to obtain documents, they received heavily redacted papers.

In response, the pair went to court for a judicial review seeking an order setting aside the reconsideration decision and entering a stay of proceedings.

On March 14, a judge ruled the couple was denied procedural fairness and ordered the LCRB to hand over records relevant to the seizure of 242 bottles of scotch whisky.

Park was intrigued. “I decided to make a film about it.”

As a result, he’s interviewed the Fergies on camera.

“Both were amazing people,” he said.

And he’s dived into the craft whisky business in the Lower Mainland; he's looking at what others are doing with their products and the contributions they're making in local supply chains.

“They support other industries as well,” he said, noting some struggle due to a lack of support from local whisky lovers.