A B.C. Supreme Court judge has upheld a liquor branch ruling that a Kelowna nightclub violated its licence by allowing a patron wearing gang clothing inside.
But Justice Geoff Barrow also agreed with Liquid Zoo owner David Habib, who argued that the three-day suspension he got for the violation was too severe.
Habib and the Liquid Zoo nightclub have a controversial history in the Okanagan city.
Habib, through his company Quail Place Estates Ltd., operated the nightclub prior to mid-2004, when he sold both the club and the building it's in to a numbered company.
A Liquor Control Branch investigation then revealed that one of the new owners was Hells Angel Damiano Dipopolo.
"As a result, the Branch refused to transfer the liquor licence and the sale had to be unwound," Barrow said in his ruling released Monday.
Issues around the nightclub licence were finally resolved in late 2011 and Habib reopened Liquid Zoo on Jan. 9, 2012, with the special anti-gang condition in place.
Just three days later, police did a routine walk through of the club and saw a man associated to the Kingpin Crew, wearing a cap with the gang's insignia on it.
"They took the hat from the patron and gave it to Mr. Habib who was working in the bar that evening," Barrow said.
"Several days later, the Branch issued a notice of enforcement action arising from the incident."
Habib claimed that he didn't see the Kingpin Crew hat until police brought it to him that night. And he also argued to both the Liquor Branch adjudicator and in B.C. Supreme Court that he believed that only Hells Angels paraphernalia was banned under his liquor licence.
"Further, he said that while he had heard of the Kingpin Crew and knew they were a motorcycle group, he did not think they were a criminal gang," Barrow summarized.
The judge rejected Habib's claim that the adjudicator's ruling was unreasonable.
But Barrow said Habib's suspension was too severe for a first-time offence.
"That issue is remitted to the adjudicator for reconsideration," he ruled.
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