Photo: Hooligans Ales & Eats Facebook
A Kelowna restaurant is suing the BC Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch because it was denied a liquor license over alleged ties to organized crime.
In a lawsuit filed in Vancouver, the numbered company that owns Hooligans Ales & Eats is asking that the denial of its liquor license application be reconsidered. He is also asking for more time for a judicial review of the decision.
At issue is the reason for the license denial, which concerns the owner’s alleged ties to three men with prior criminal convictions, including her former common-law partner.
Paula Nowakowski is the director and owner of Hooligans, which opened in November 2021 at 272 Bernard Ave.
Since then, it has been unable to serve beer and other alcoholic beverages, severely limiting business.
“Customers routinely walk out of the restaurant after being told they can’t order beers and constantly ask why alcohol isn’t being served. The denial of this license jeopardized the long-term viability of the petitioner’s business,” the lawsuit states.
The court document says a letter from the liquor branch during the application process raised concerns about Paula Nowakowski’s alleged ties to her former partner Mark Nowakowski and two other men.
Mark Nowakowski is the former president of the now defunct Fallen Saints Motorcycle Club, which the letter called an organized crime group and “puppet club” of the Saskatoon chapter of the Hells Angels. Mark is on the restaurant’s lease, but Paula Nowakowski said in the lawsuit the lease was signed “a week or two” before the couple split.
The lawsuit says the LCRB alleges an RCMP officer spoke with Mark in January 2021. In that conversation, Mark allegedly referred to Paula as his wife and explained how she was opening a “wings-style” restaurant called Hooligans.
Paula received correspondence from a liquor board investigator in June 2021 asking her to clarify the status of her relationship with Mark. She replied that she may have misunderstood which box to tick on the application, but specifically wrote on the form that it was separated in bold “to alleviate any confusion”.
In October 2021, the LCRB sent a letter to Paula offering her an “opportunity to be heard” and asking her to address concerns over Mark Nowakowski’s alleged ties to the company.
Stanley Tessmer, a well-known Kelowna defense attorney who owns the restaurant, responded to the letter on Paula’s behalf. He noted that Mark’s tax return was filed as “separate”, that the man lives in Saskatchewan and that Tessmer had not seen him at all since February 2021, although he had seen Paula frequently.
The lawsuit argues that Mark Nowakowski is reformed and has not been involved in criminal activity for the past four or five years. He indicates that the other two men whom the liquor branch deemed problematic were hired for renovations to the restaurant, but the work was not done properly and Paula would not hire them again. Tessmer also provided a letter of reference for one of the men of good character saying he is also reformed and no longer involved in crime.
Despite Tessmer’s intervention, the LCRB issued a “final decision” denying the request.
Paula Nowakowski’s lawyer suggests the decision was unfair for several reasons, including allegations that she was “attempting to mislead or hide information from the LCRB”.
The lawsuit relies on “procedural fairness” as a cornerstone of the case, stating that “it was procedurally unfair for the defendant to deny the request without disclosing and giving the petitioner a reasonable opportunity to respond.”
For example, the lawsuit says the LCRB also relied on the fact that the Hooligans business license application to the City of Kelowna came from an email address associated with Mark Nowakowski — something that didn’t. was raised as an issue until the liquor license was rejected.
The branch also deemed the application deficient because it failed to answer a number of questions relating to Mark’s background and involvement in the business.
“Ms. Nowakowski was not given prior notice that she had to deal with these particular issues,” the lawsuit said.
The LCRB has not yet filed a defence. None of the allegations have been proven in court.