The NWT Liquor Licensing Board isn’t going to allow local businesses to buy beer directly from the NWT Brewing Company, and it doesn’t appear anybody can make them.

Yellowknifer previously reported the board denied requests from several local businesses as well as the NWT Liquor Commission to buy beer directly from NWT Brewing, instead of having to go through the liquor commission’s warehouse, where fees are tacked onto what are already some of the highest beer taxes in the country.

The board did not share the reasons for these denials until last week, when it supplied Yellowknifer with the written decisions sent to Hay River’s Ptarmigan Inn and Doghouse Pub, the Explorer Hotel and Twist & Shout.

In the letters, the board waffles between stating it does not have the authority, or the NWT Liquor Act has no provision at all to allow it to happen.

“To the board’s knowledge, NWT Brewing Company is not a vendor operating a liquor store as defined under the Liquor Act,” wrote acting chair Adelle Guigon.

She wrote the same thing to Twist & Shout, adding NWT Brewing is able to sell its beer directly through The Woodyard Brewhouse and Eatery because it is “deemed to have been sold first to the Liquor Commission and then purchased back by the licence holder,” thanks to a manufacturer’s extension on their liquor licence. But, she wrote there “is no statutory authority in the act or regulations” to allow NWT Brewing to do the same with outside businesses.

NWT liquor regulations make repeated mention to the board being able to authorize exceptions, including a section regarding sales, transportation and importation of liquor, which states: “Unless authorized by the board” liquor-licence holders can only purchase liquor from the liquor warehouse or liquor store.

This summer, Peter Maher, director of liquor operations, wrote a letter to the board requesting the NWT Liquor Commission authorize NWT Brewing to sell its products directly to licence holders in the territory. But the board was having none of it.

“The board respectfully disagrees with the commission’s interpretation of these sections as meaning the commission has the authority to allow a manufacturer to sell liquor directly to licence holders,” wrote Colin Baile, chairperson on behalf of the board, referring to a section of the liquor regulations that state manufacturers can only sell their products to the commission or a “similar extra-judicial authority.”

Maher was unavailable to comment about the letter or the board’s response, according to Ngan Trinh, spokesperson for the Department of Finance.

It doesn’t appear as though Finance Minister Robert C. McLeod, whose department oversees liquor regulations in the territory, has the authority to step in. Yellowknifer requested to speak to McLeod about the issue, but he was unavailable for comment, despite repeated requests.

“The board has authority in this matter,” stated Trinh on Sept. 29.

Previously, McLeod told Yellowknifer the board’s conduct was out of his hands once individual members have been appointed.

The liquor board and commission are independent bodies operating at arms-length from the territorial government, and do not comment on decisions.

Yellowknife North MLA Cory Vanthuyne has had just about enough of the board’s shenanigans.

“The policy gives them the discretion to make that decision if they wanted to,” he said.

He said he thinks the board is digging in its heels because it believes its protecting people from systemic social issues, at the expense of aligning with the legislative assembly’s mandate to support local businesses and diversify.

“No change in policy or regulation will change a board’s beliefs,” he said. “You can change policy, you can change regulations, but they are only as good as the people that are administering them. There’s a fundamental difference of culture that needs to be shifted.”

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