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Burnaby council decides fate of bylaw-breaking karaoke business

A local karaoke business' licence has been cancelled due to serving alcohol without proper permits.

On Dec. 30, 2022, Burnaby RCMP dropped by local karaoke business Solo Karaoke at 102-6462 Kingsway for a late-night liquor and licencing check.

Officers found out the business didn’t have a valid liquor licence, and staff denied serving any.

But customers told police otherwise.

“Patrons told police that 10 minutes before police entered the business they were asked to hide the beer bottles and cans. Once confronted again staff admitted to selling alcohol,” an RCMP report stated.

“Further checks of the premises revealed large amounts of disposable unstamped vape products were displayed for sale. Police also located and seized a large quantity of unopened beer and hard liquor.”

Less than three weeks later on Jan. 18, 2023, the city pulled Solo Karaoke’s business licence.

The business then tried to fight to get its licence back, filing an appeal to council to reconsider the licence cancellation.

On April 3, Burnaby city council held a special reconsideration hearing on whether to overturn or uphold the cancellation.

The city’s chief licence inspector Dan Layng said the city received nine complaints from eight separate people about Solo Karaoke since August 2021, all of them alleging the business was serving alcohol without a valid liquor licence.

“In addition, complainants also expressed various other concerns related to noise disturbance (and) smoking on the premises.”

In December 2021, a city inspection of the business found beer in a refrigerator and “other bottles appearing to contain alcohol,” according to Layng’s report to council. Staff did not find alcohol being consumed at the time.

The city directed Solo Karaoke to stop serving alcohol without a licence but continued to receive complaints.

After the licence was revoked in January this year, the city received another noise complaint including a video showing “approximately 20 individuals entering the business at roughly 3 a.m.” on Feb. 4, 2023.

“This type of behaviour is further evidence of the business’ disregard for the requirement to adhere to the rules and regulations,” Layng told council at the hearing.

Solo Karaoke’s lawyer Lucy Zhao appealed to city council to overturn the business licence cancellation, stating there was only one night with proof of Solo Karaoke selling alcohol without a permit.

Zhao said photos of alcohol in the fridge at the business were not proof of sale.

“These pictures cannot prove that those were the alcohol that were served or sold to patrons. They were just alcohol in the premises,” Zhao said at the hearing.

She said Solo Karaoke had previously received four or five special event licences to be able to serve alcohol but not sell it.

Layng told council the special events licences are “not the correct type of licences” for a business that regularly sells alcohol.

“It appears the business has done the bare minimum necessary in an attempt to meet the requirements of compliance. It is a superficial gesture at best,” Layng said, adding it is “very seldom, if at all” that the city receives complaints about other businesses offering alcohol services.

When councillors and Mayor Mike Hurley expressed concerns about the Feb. 4 video showing about 20 people entering the business after its licence was revoked, Solo Karaoke owner Wendy Yan Zhang told them the video showed a personal gathering, not business.

“They are my friends,” Zhang said. “We came back from the nightclub, so they want to stay together, and we told them the business licence was cancelled; we cannot do business. So, we didn’t do any business, we just let them in.”

Council upheld the chief licence inspector’s decision to cancel the business licence.