10/25/2012 11:35 EDT | Updated 12/25/2012 05:12 EST

B.C. may reverse crackdown on charity wine auctions

B.C.'s Liquor Control and Licensing Branch is hinting it may reverse a rule that forbids the auctions or raffles of donated wine at some charity events.

The issue came to light earlier this week, when the branch told a Victoria theatre group it could not auction off donated wine at its annual fundraiser planned for this weekend.

A Special Occasion License only allows groups to sell liquor at its events if it's bought from the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch. The officials claim the rule has been on the books for years, but had never been enforced in this way before.

The minister responsible, Rich Coleman, has not been available for an interview on the subject, despite several days' worth of requests.

However, a statement issued late yesterday by the branch said, "We are moving quickly to find interim measures to deal with these types of situations, and we have asked legal counsel to investigate options."

A lawyer who specializes in liquor laws says as they stand, the new interpretation of the rule could mean hundreds of charities will lose hundreds of thousands of dollars. Mark Hicken is calling on Coleman to act quickly.

"I think the minister should act very quickly and fix this because this is an issue that's going to cause serious funding problems for charities," said Hicken.

"At most it requires a change in a regulation. It doesn't require any legislative change. It's not difficult to change a regulation. You can do that by a ministerial order or an order in council," he said.