Shores of Erie Corporation found guilty of liquor licence charges
The board of the Shores of Erie Wine festival has been found guilty of two charges under the Liquor Licence Act of Ontario.
Justice of the Peace Mike Hurst ruled Monday in the case stemming from the death of 18-year-old Emily Bernauer more than three years ago.
Bernauer died in a single-vehicle accident after working the festival on Sept. 6, 2014.
The corporation, as the liquor licence holder, was charged with allowing a minor to consume alcohol and failing to inspect an ID of a minor.
Hurst found them guilty on both counts.
“He found that the festival people had a good system in place, that amounted to due diligence but oddly enough they weren't duly diligent enough about checking on the food booths,” says defence lawyer Pat Ducharme.
Hurst ruled the festival corporation didn't do enough to make sure that food vendors knew they couldn't give or sell alcohol to volunteers working for them.
Hurst said Monday "this case has been the most difficult of my career."
Ducharme believes that is unfair given that one of the owners of the Sobeys' booth is a former board member and as such would have known the rules in place.
Court heard that Bernauer got wine from the Sobeys booth, that she was given an age identification wristband from her boss Rennie Rota, even though no one checked her ID.
Testimony also revealed that the 18-year-old Bernauer was able to purchase wine tokens without being asked for ID at two token booths.
Court heard all volunteers had at least four "smart serve" sessions, plus meetings to go over the liquor rules and there was adequate security to keep the event safe.
But the judge said he was critical of the corporation for not having a similar policy with respect to food vendors and so found the corporation guilty.
“All of these people are volunteers, as his worship properly pointed out, they gave hundreds and hundreds of hours of their time,” says Ducharme. “Every bit of money that was raised was given back to the community, whether or not they ever to spend money to appeal a decision like this, I have no idea.”
There has not been another Shores of Erie Wine Festival since Bernauer's death.
The Bernauer family declined to comment outside of court Monday, saying they want to have their say through their victim impact statements, which will be heard at sentencing.
A date for sentencing submissions will be selected on Sept. 25.
CTV’s Michelle Maluske has details from court: