The Crown corporations that control alcohol sales across Canada’s two largest provinces have both pledged not to reorder wines from Norman Hardie, the Ontario winemaker facing widespread accusations of sexual misconduct.
On Thursday, Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ), which distributes alcohol in Quebec, said it would remove remaining bottles of Norman Hardie wine from its shelves. And the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), which just a day earlier had said it would leave the choice “in the hands of customers,” announced it would sell off its remaining wine and not place a new order.
“As stated, we share the concerns regarding the troubling allegations against Norman Hardie brought forward yesterday,” the LCBO statement read. The SAQ statement cited “recent developments” as its reason for ending sales. The agencies are two of the world’s biggest purchasers of wine and the country’s largest retailers for alcohol.
Both announcements come just days after a Globe and Mail investigation detailed a pattern of alleged misconduct by the famed winemaker, including three women who say they were subjected to unwanted sexual contact, and 18 others who described sexual harassment. In response, Mr. Hardie has said “some of the allegations made against me are not true, but many are.”
The SAQ and LCBO (which added that it “may make further determinations as more information becomes available”) joined a growing list of retailers and restaurants across Canada that have suspended or ended sales of the wines.
“I can’t in good conscience carry the wines,” said Véronique Rivest, the owner of Soif Bar à vin in Gatineau, Que., and one of the top sommeliers in the world. (In 2013, Ms. Rivest came in second in the World’s Best Sommelier Competition in Japan). She had, in the past, included the products in her weekly rotating wine list. “What it [now] represents − we can’t condone such behaviour,” she said.
In St. John’s, Nfld., Raymonds − often cited as Canada’s best restaurant − did the same. Co-owner and sommelier Jeremy Bonia, who is a long-time friend of Mr. Hardie’s, emphasized that he has never witnessed inappropriate behaviour, but said his own restaurants have a zero tolerance for harassment.
“We just felt it’s the right thing to do right now, with everything that’s going on, to be respectful,” he said. Raymonds’ sister restaurant, The Merchant Tavern, has also stopped selling the wine.
Other prominent restaurants included Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland, Boralia in Toronto and the Oliver & Bonacini Hospitality Group, which has 20 restaurants across Canada, including Canoe and Auberge du Pommier in Toronto.
The Globe investigation this week included the accounts of three women who say Mr. Hardie subjected them to unwanted sexual contact. Two of the women − a former employee, and one who worked at a restaurant with close ties to the winery − said Mr. Hardie groped them. A third woman, who also worked at the winery, said Mr. Hardie tried to kiss her on her first day at work.
An additional 18 described sexual harassment by Mr. Hardie. Earlier this week, Mr. Hardie responded with an apology. He admitted to “many” of the allegations, but maintained that others are not true. He has not specified which of the allegations are untrue. (He earlier told The Globe: “I do not physically grab people or touch them against their will.”)
He also said an independent review of the winery recently found no instances of sexual harassment at the business.
Industry groups also distanced themselves.
The Prince Edward County Winegrowers Association, which represents about 40 wineries in the area, suspended his membership on Thursday.
“The allegations of sexual misconduct at a member winery are very serious,” it said. “We are sorry to hear about the victims’ experiences and applaud their courage in coming forward.”
The Wine Marketing Association of Ontario, meanwhile, described the allegations as “deeply troubling.”
“Sexual misconduct is never acceptable,” said Aliya Jiwan-Thawer, a spokesperson for the group. The WMAO, she said, supports “a safe working environment for all, free from harassment, and expects the same from everyone in the industry.”