The 2020 Tofino Food and Wine Festival has been cancelled. (Photo - Tofino Food and Wine Festival Facebook)

B.C. liquor branch blamed for cancellation of popular Tofino food and wine fest

Organizers held the 17th annual Tofino Food and Wine Festival in June 2019

Organizers of the West Coast’s popular Tofino Food and Wine Festival say the event will not be held next year because of fractured relationship with B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch.

“To the many patrons, artists, musicians, winemakers, chefs, suppliers, organizers, sponsors and volunteers who have been our partners these many years, we extend our deepest and heartfelt thanks and regrets,” read a statement on the event’s website Oct. 4.

“These events have all been happy, convivial afternoons of celebrating our great B.C. wineries, craft brewers, distillers and the culinary excellence of B.C.’s restaurant industry.”

Organizers blamed a “terribly ruptured relationship” with the agency that issues liquor licences in B.C., saying their positive relationship with the branch this year suddenly.

“Our experience was the opposite; obstructive, hostile, intimidating and rude. We felt like an opponent.”

It suggests this year, organizers navigated the permit requirements only to receive one just two weeks before the event, leading to “a great deal of anxiety, stress and pressure for the producers and directors.”

READ MORE: Allow bars, restaurants to sell alcohol for offsite drinking, industry group says

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This year’s event, held in June, was a success, but the organization said it is not confident it will get a permit for 2020 and does not want to risk the disappointment or stress.

Andrea McQuade, a district councillor and co-owner of festival contributor Kuma Restaurant, said the cancellation was unexpected and unfortunate, and touted the event as a “linchpin” of the local culinary scene.

“To have everyone come to Tofino, a relatively small place – it gives us a boost in morale, it gives us a boost in tourism and it gives locals and tourists alike a really great time,” McQuade said, adding she hopes the event will return in 2021.

The Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch has not yet returned a request for comment.

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