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Construction delays, ‘bureaucratic mixup’ lead to liquor license expiration

Café Nostalgica has temporarily stopped selling alcohol due to a two-month elevator technician strike, causing a construction delay, which led to their liquor license expiring.

In Ottawa, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) provides liquor licenses. During the application process, AGCO requires that a business submit an agency letter of approval from the Building Services Branch of the City of Ottawa. Whenever renovations are involved, however, the City can only provide the business with a letter of approval once the renovations are completed, at which point the City issues the business a final occupancy permit. As a result, the café could not complete its liquor license application until renovations were completed.

When staff learned of the delay in the elevator construction, they asked AGCO to put the application for the liquor license on hold until a final occupancy permit was submitted. In the meantime, AGCO issued Café Nostalgica a three-month temporary liquor license on May 17.

However, due to continued delays in the elevator construction, the café did not receive the final occupancy permit until Aug. 19. By that time it was too late.

“When the occupancy permit was finally submitted through to the AGCO, the temporary permit had already fallen through and the application (for the liquor license) had already come off their system,” said Café Nostalgica general manager Kate Gauvreau.

The café continued to sell alcohol past the expiration of their temporary license until its liquor inspector notified them of the issue Oct. 7.

“When the inspector came he was extremely understandable as well as extremely apologetic for us,” Gauvreau said. “It’s really just a bureaucratic mixup.”

At that point, Café Nostalgica stopped selling alcohol and contacted AGCO to resolve the issue. The situation will not lead to a license suspension or a penalty. Gauvreau expects the liquor license to be reinstated by the end of the month.

Gauvreau has been working at the café since June 2010. She noted this is not the first time it has faced issues renewing its liquor license and that it happens rather frequently. In 2010, when the café built a new patio, the renewal application was processed by the AGCO, but the expansion was not included and therefore denied. As a result, the café’s license was renewed only for its previously allocated areas, but not for the new patio.

She also said the café’s sales are not severely affected as a result of the situation because most sales come from food orders. Even so, Gauvreau said they have cancelled their night programming in the meantime.