Though the Capital Hotel’s bar has a red sign hanging near its front door proclaiming it a “drug-free zone,” the place has a history of harbouring drug pedlars, according to documents obtained by The News.
In 2003, an RCMP sting operation nabbed three drug dealers.
A few Outside officers went undercover and tried to buy drugs from dealers operating out of local bars.
They didn’t have much trouble finding 8-balls of cocaine at the Capital, a bar that lists Mines Minister Archie Lang as a director.
Lang is an owner of the Capital Hotel through a holding company that lists it as an asset, according to a disclosure statement filed in the legislature.
“The Capital Hotel was clearly one of the places rightly targeted during that operation,” reads a written ruling by deputy Judge Cunliffe Barnett’s in August 2004.
“And when the officers, who were operating undercover, went to the Capital, their first encounter was with Mr. Blackjack and it didn’t seem to be very secretive.”
Barnett found three local men — Dustin Blackjack, Joel Cozens and Robert Bremner — guilty for their involvement in selling cocaine to the undercover cops.
Bremner was working as a bartender at the Capital at the time.
“I am told Mr. Bremner, who clearly had something of a lead role, had got involved initially wanting to help out patrons in the Capital perhaps who were looking for small amounts of cocaine…” states Barnett’s ruling.
Evidence suggests the bar’s owners ignored the drug problem until as recently as the summer.
In July, a group of 50 concerned citizens gathered outside the Capital Hotel and ousted a known drug dealer from the premises.
“Innocent people who aren’t doing coke are getting busted up by the coke dealers,” one of the concerned citizens told The News at the time.
“There’s been so much violence that a bunch of people said that it’s got to stop. Someone’s going to get killed,” he added.
In September, The News started investigating charges the Yukon Party has not been enforcing the Yukon Liquor Act.
According to information received over the past four months from several anonymous sources, officials have ignored liquor act infractions throughout the territory, like overcrowding, overserving and serving minors.
That loose enforcement has permitted problems, like drug use, trafficking and violence, to fester.
For example, when a bar is overcrowded or its patrons are served to the point of intoxication there is an atmosphere of chaos that makes it harder for servers or bouncers to curb illegal behaviour, said one source, who asked to remain anonymous.
Allegations of shoddy enforcement have persisted for years.
They first surfaced in 2004, and were pursued by the Yukon New Democratic Party after the number of suspension orders issued dwindled from 11 in 2001-02 to three in 2003-04.
The New Democrats requested documents through the Yukon Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, but balked when the government presented it with a $1,326.50 estimate of costs.
A follow-up request by The News provoked the same estimate.
So, in October, The News honed its request, asking for documents detailing liquor act infractions and enforcement at two local watering holes — the Capital Hotel and the Kopper King — for the period January 2003 to December 2004.
During those two years, inspectors recorded several liquor act infractions at the Capital, such as overcrowding, overserving and serving minors.
For example, on November 22, 2004, RCMP found two drunk men fighting at the bar.
“The staff would have continued to serve (them) if (they were) not removed by RCMP,” reads the inspector’s report from that night.
On December 11, 2004, inspectors saw patrons walking outside the bar with their drinks in hand.
A week later, on December 18, inspectors found two minors drinking a bottle of whiskey in the women’s washroom. And the next day, they found an intoxicated man slouched over the table sucking on a beer.
And, adding to the liquor act infractions, inspectors and RCMP officers also made notes detailing drug trafficking and drug use in the bar.
RCMP officers, on a walkthrough, found an individual “selling cocaine in (the) back area of bar” on June 23, 2004.
On September 14, 2003, liquor inspectors found “a problem with a patron doing drugs at a table by the south end of the bar.”
And on December 21 there were “two males standing on the back step smoking marijuana.”
Records detailing these infractions were contained in 360-pages of documents given to The News through access-to-information requests.
The Yukon Liquor Corporation provided some documents free of charge.
For the licensed premise check reports, which are considered public under access to information legislation, The News paid almost $1 per sheet.
The package came to a total $329.
The News received the requested information in November, but the documentation was incomplete.
The paper had asked for “all licensed premise checks completed,” in 2003-2004.
However, at least three of the most-damning licensed-premise-check reports were missing. They had been drafted by inspectors looking for infractions, like overserving, serving minors and overcrowding.
The News determined the information was missing because copies of the premise checks had been included in a separate access-to-information request.
As well, at least one warning letter was missing from the ATIPP request.
According to documents leaked to The News, the Capital Hotel received three warning letters in 2004, but the ATIPP request only turned up two.
“I don’t know why that is,” said Yukon Liquor Corp. ATIPP co-ordinator Jerry McLachlan on Wednesday.
“My understanding is that they should all be together — all of the licensed premise checks.”
Both McLachlan and ATIPP act co-ordinator Cassandra Kelly said they would investigate the matter.
Also listed on the board of directors of the Capital Hotel are Maurice Byblow, Deborah Fulmer and Ken Eby.
During last week’s coldsnap, Premier Dennis Fentie proudly displayed several electric heaters pumping warmth into his office in the corner of the Yukon legislature building.
Without them, the office would be no warmer than a meat freezer, he explained.
“This one actually has oil inside it,” he said as he flicked on a heater.
The ventilation and heating system in the legislature building failed early last week, leaving Fentie’s office frigid.
The main building was built in 1975 and, apparently, is starting to show signs of mid-life decay. (TQ)