Organizers of the West Coast’s popular Tofino Food and Wine Festival recently announced the event will not be held next year due to a 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 posted to the event’s website announcing the cancellation of 2020’s scheduled event.
The festival celebrated its 17th annual appearance at the Tofino Botanical Gardens in June of 2019.
“These events have all been happy, convivial afternoons of celebrating our great BC wineries, craft brewers, distillers and the culinary excellence of BC’s restaurant industry,” the statement reads. “If any single event defined Tofino’s emergence as a culinary destination, it was this one.”
Through the statement, organizers blamed “a terribly ruptured relationship with the provincial Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch” for the cancellation.
“For the past 16 years, our experience in working with the British Columbia LCRB has been positive; constructive, helpful and supportive. We have felt like a client or partner,” the statement reads. “In 2019, our 17th year producing this well loved event, our experience was the opposite; obstructive, hostile, intimidating and rude. We felt like an opponent.”
It suggests organizers navigated through the LCRB’s requirements and received a permit for 2019’s event just two weeks prior, leading to “a great deal of anxiety, stress and pressure for the producers and directors.”
It says 2019’s event was a success, but organizers are not confident they will receive a permit for 2020 and are “not willing to risk the chance of disappointment, unwanted and unwarranted stress for our team members, our guests and our partners.”
Municipal councillor Andrea McQuade co-owns the restaurant Kuma Tofino, a participating contributor of the festival, and told the Westerly News the cancellation was unexpected and unfortunate.
“I think it came as a surprise and probably a shock to the whole community. I think all of us look forward to Food and Wine every year and a large number of visitors look forward to Food and Wine every year.”
She said she could not comment on what transpired between the event’s organizers and the LCRB, but suggested 2019’s event was well organized.
“I’ve personally always found Food and Wine to be a great event as both a participant and as a regular ticket holder,” she said. “I always find it to be well organized and it’s just such a fun community event.”
She suggested there’s little the town’s council can do to assist the festival’s relationship with the LCRB and that the issue “goes beyond the municipality’s scope.”
“These are rules and regulations that are put in by the province and that are administered by a provincial, not municipal, body,” she said. “We can support our local festivals in attending them and encouraging our residents to attend them but, when it comes to whatever transpires between a licence holder and the actual regulating board, I think that’s something that goes beyond what council can influence.”
She added that she hopes to see the festival return in 2021 and touted the event as a “linchpin” of the local culinary scene.
“It brings together an incredible number of creative people, of wine makers, of breweries, of restaurants, at a time when we don’t get to see each other, in the middle of the summer. 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. So, while I am definitely saddened to hear that it won’t be happening next year, I have little to no doubt that either something great will take its place for a year, or it will come back stronger and better than ever in 2021.”
The Westerly News has reached out to the LCRB for comment and will update this story as new information comes in.
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