The organizers of the long-standing Tofino Food and Wine Festival say a “terribly ruptured” relationship with the province has forced them to cancel the event in 2020.
A statement on the festival’s website says B.C.’s liquor and cannabis regulation branch (LCRB) had been a “positive” partner over the past 16 years of annual festival, calling the government body “constructive, helpful and supportive.”
But in the lead-up to this year’s event in June, organizers say things took an unexpected turn, calling the LCRB “obstructive, hostile, intimidating and rude.”
“As we navigated through new processes and requirements, and needed assistance, we were met with little to no support or clarification related to LCRB’s new requirements,” the statement reads.
Organizers say they were eventually able to obtain their special event permit, but the approval came two weeks before the event, “resulting in a great deal of anxiety, stress and pressure.”
The festival now has “little confidence” it will be able to get the same permit for next year’s event without risking “the chance of disappointment” and “unwanted and unwarranted stress.”
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The statement did not make clear what new requirements stood in the way of the festival obtaining its permit from the LCRB. Interview requests were not returned Saturday.
The Ministry of Attorney General, which oversees the LCRB, was unable to comment on the case due to privacy and “administrative fairness.”
Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne said in an email she has been “very involved” with organizing the festival in the past, and is disappointed to see the festival cancelled.
“The festival has been estimated to bring $750,000 to Tofino’s tourism economy each year, and has raised tens of thousands of dollars for local non-profits over its 17 year history,” Osborne said.
“While Tofino still has many great festivals and events … we are going to really miss the Tofino Food and Wine Festival next year.”
Osborne noted her husband is George Patterson, the director of the Tofino Botanical Gardens Foundation, which is a key partner of the festival.
Organizers say the festival could still return in 2021, however: “our response to this is ‘never say never.’”
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