Not the same as bootlegging, says owner
Explorer's Club benefactor incensed
IQALUIT (May 17/99) - While the investigation into the operation of a private club in Iqaluit continues, the owner and manager of the organization said recent RCMP actions were unfair and unwarranted.
Joseph Morneau, the sole shareholder of Group One, the company that leases space to the Explorer's Club (formerly run under the name of the Booze Can), said last week that when police executed a search warrant and shut down his club for selling alcohol without a license, it was unnecessary and unjustified.
He said that in cities in the south, private clubs were allowed to operate without liquor licenses on a regular basis and that he should have been exempt from the liquor laws and been able to do so as well.
"We didn't sell to just anybody. It was members only and everybody had cards. (It was not a violation) because it's a private club," said Morneau, a teacher at Inuksuk High School.
Not so, says Delilah St. Arneault, the manager of licensing and enforcement for the Nunavut and NWT Liquor Licensing Board. As long as any kind of alcohol was being sold on the premises, located for the last five years in Iqaluit's West 40 area, the club, whether private or not, was in violation of the law.
"They're not licensed to serve alcohol. If they're serving alcohol in there, they're basically bootlegging and it's a matter for the RCMP," said St. Arneault.
"Because they were not licensed, we have no authority under the Liquor Act to inspect the premises so it's an RCMP matter if they're selling alcohol."
S/Sgt. Jim MacDougall said the club had actually been under investigation for some time, but it wasn't until recently that they had managed to gather enough evidence to secure a search warrant. When police finally went into the club, three patrons were fined for possessing illegal alcohol and a large amount of booze, documents and bar paraphernalia was seized. He said additional charges under the Liquor Act are pending.
But Morneau in the meantime, has insisted that what he does is not bootlegging and he is angry about the negative publicity and attention he has received from the media, students, staff and community members.
"At the Northern the other day, I was called a bootlegger with the kind of vehemence directed at a child molester. There's a big difference between what's going on out at West 40...they make it sound like we're firing bottles out the back door of a shack in the woods in the middle of the night. It's not that at all."