Business owner takes on liquor board and wins, but still loses

Ken Achtymichuk says he's tired - more tired and stressed out than most convenience storeowners. Achtymichuk, who owns Porter Creek's Heather's Snack Haven, has been fighting with the Yukon Liquor Board for over two years.

Ken Achtymichuk says he’s tired – more tired and stressed out than most convenience storeowners.

Achtymichuk, who owns Porter Creek’s Heather’s Snack Haven, has been fighting with the Yukon Liquor Board for over two years.

He’s gone through two court cases, spent thousands of dollars in legal fees and even had the Yukon Supreme Court decide in his favour.

But after all of that, not a single thing has changed for his liquor licence.

In November 2009, Achtymichuk applied for two licences from the Yukon Liquor Board: a “food primary” licence to allow him to sell alcohol to people eating at the small restaurant at the back of the store and another to sell off-sales.

In January, 2010, the board approved the food primary licence but not the one for off-sales.

Achtymichuk filed a petition over the denial in Yukon Supreme Court in February 2010.

Eventually, out of court, the board agreed to an off-sales licence, but pegged its hours to that of the food primary licence.

Achtymichuk brought the case back to court, arguing that his off-sales licence should be set to different hours than the restaurant’s licence.

Yukon Supreme Court Justice Rene Foisy agreed.

On Nov. 30, just over two years after Achtymichuk initially applied for the licences, Foisy threw out the Yukon Liquor Board’s decision to tie the hours of the two licences.

“I have found the board erred in law,” the decision reads. “While the board is under no requirement to allow different hours, and indeed in the vast majority of cases may choose to require parallel hours, its failure to acknowledge that it has the discretion to differently regulate the petitioner’s off-sales hours requires that this decision be quashed.”

On Feb. 1, the board issued a new decision for Achtymichuk with the exact same hours.

It said it considered its discretion to offer different hours, as Foisy ordered it to do, and it came up with the exact same result.

To grant Achtymichuk different hours for off-sales and the sale of beer and wine, to customers eating in the small clutter of tables and chairs at the back of his store, would “jeopardize the integrity” of the main purpose of his business, the board’s Feb. 1 decision says.

That meant selling beer and wine for people to drink somewhere other than the store would become the main purpose for Heather’s Snack Haven.

Although in late 2009 he added chairs and tables in the back corner of his store and began offering breakfast, burgers and sandwiches, the majority of the store is just that – a store. Shelves and coolers stand full of food and drinks to buy. Clothing, like band sweatshirts, hangs from racks on one side of the store, just in front of the group of chairs and tables. And behind the long counter and cash machine, there are shelves of cigarettes and a cooler for off-sales.

Achtymichuk believes the board has it out for him.

Over the past two years, Achtymichuk says he has found numerous examples of inconsistent decisions, lack of transparency and what he calls nepotism.

They make up their own rules and do whatever they want, Achtymichuk said.

“This is good-old-boys’ turf,” he said. “Obviously, the good old boys don’t want me to compete with them on their turf. It’s as simple and straightforward as that.”

When Achtymichuk’s “new” licence was dropped off at his store, he sent it back.

The hours were wrong, he said.

After the court decision, he put in a request to start the restaurant and off-sales service a few hours earlier from Monday to Saturday.

“I’m at their mercy,” he said. “They get to dictate my hours and tell me how to run my business.”

Achtymichuk was informed that his request would be brought up at the board’s next meeting, scheduled for Feb. 15.

Achtymichuk wasn’t sure if he’d go or not.

He isn’t sure there’s any point in continuing the fight, he said.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com