A bar owner in Mount Pearl says the Newfoundland Liquor Corp. (NLC) has double standards regarding promotions.
Shortly before midnight on Nov. 22, an NLC inspector visited Tol’s Time-Out Lounge on Old Placentia Road to conduct an inspection.
On the inspection receipt, the inspector indicated in the comments that she “reviewed minimum pricing regarding gift cards” with the lounge manager.
Tol’s owner, Tolson Bastow, said he was running a promotion in which patrons could win gift cards.
Called the “Friday Night Name Game”, the lounge creates a list of women’s names, and if anyone in the lounge has that name — and can prove it with valid ID — they win a $25 gift card and have their name entered into a draw for a diamond ring in February.
Bastow said he was told the contest violated section 36.1 of the Liquor Licensing Regulations and that he wasn’t allowed to give away gift cards.
He questions why the NLC is allowed to have a customer feedback contest in which customers can win a $100 Liquor Store gift card.
When customers purchase alcohol at a liquor store, at the bottom of the receipt is an invitation to provide feedback. Each month, a name is drawn from those who provide feedback and the winner gets a gift card.
“If they can give away a gift card and I can’t, that’s a double standard,” said Bastow.
Gift cards equivalent to free alcohol
The Telegram received an explanation of the regulations for licensed establishments from the NLC.
“According to the Liquor Licensing Regulations, licensees are not permitted to offer free alcohol to patrons on a licensed premises,” wrote a spokesperson in an email to The Telegram.
The spokesperson cited section 36.1 of the regulations, which says, “The holder of a lounge...shall not provide free alcoholic liquor to a patron or guest on a licensed premises.”
The spokesperson also cited the minimum pricing regulation of $1.65 per standard serving.
The Telegram asked for clarification of regulations that allow the NLC to give gift cards but do not allow licensed premises to do such giveaways.
As of deadline Sunday evening, The Telegram had not received a response.
Bastow doesn’t believe his lounge did anything wrong with the giveaway.
“The gift certificate never had anything wrote on it that you had to buy alcohol. You could have used it for anything. In cases, it was used for alcohol.”
He said patrons could use it to purchase chips, bars, or bottled water, for example.
Bastow said the contest is very popular — and that’s important for the lounge.
“People don’t go to bars as much as they used to 10 years ago. It’s changing. You don’t need to go to a bar to meet a girl now — you can do it online.”
He said the promotion was a way to get more people in the club, and it worked.
‘It’s not an issue’: George Street Association
The Telegram spoke with Jonathan Galgay with the George Street Association to see if other establishments have similar concerns.
“We haven’t had complaints, nor do we have complaints about that,” said Galgay. “You have to really ensure that you are controlling the amount of alcohol and distribution of alcohol, and it’s really important that safeguards be put in place.”
He said there’s no difference in giving away gift cards or giving away free alcohol, which he said lounge owners on George Street are aware of, and they know they’re not allowed to do that.
“People have become very creative in terms of drawing people into their individual establishments,” said Galgay.
Meanwhile, Bastow said he will not end the contest — he’s now offering a $25 bar tab instead of gift cards.
“I haven’t been addressed on the word ‘tab’ yet — I’ve been addressed on the phrase ‘gift card’,” he said, adding other clubs do similar bar tab promotions, such as Rob Roy and Konfusion’s birthday promotion in which patrons celebrating a birthday have their wristband marked, indicating they get a $25 tab or five drinks.