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Halifax bars fire first


One of Halifax’s most storied bars has fired the first shot in a liquor levy war against Nova Scotia.

One of Halifax’s most storied bars has fired the first shot in a liquor levy war against Nova Scotia.

The Split Crow pub has given Nova Scotia’s deputy attorney general 60 days’ notice that it intends to launch a class-action suit to recoup what it will argue amounted to an unconstitutional tax on booze.

The owner of the drinking establishment hopes to recover more than $250,000 he estimates the province has collected over the past six years.

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“It’s been a long, hard battle and I don’t expect it to be over any time soon,” Damian Byrne said in early February.

He expects hundreds of other bar and restaurant owners will join the class-action suit.

“Think about the moms and the pops,” Byrne said. “It’s nice to talk about the Split Crow, where we’ve had a pretty good run in business anyway. But there are people that downright struggle in the tourist industry and there was an extra 10 per cent of their bottom line gone. That put people out of business.”

A recent Supreme Court of Canada decision ordered New Brunswick to repay a bar owner for a special user fee that amounted to an unconstitutional tax on liquor because it was not related to the cost of delivering the service.

In Nova Scotia, restaurants and bar owners have paid a levy on top of the regular retail price of the alcohol they bought from the government-owned liquor corporation.

Ten years ago, the fee was 10 per cent. It fell to 3.5 per cent in 2006 and was eliminated this year.

The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association estimated the province used it to collect as much as $20 million over a six-year period.