SAQ, Montreal restaurants remove Norman Hardie wines amid sexual misconduct claims

SAQ, Montreal restaurants remove Norman Hardie wines amid sexual misconduct claims

Quebec's liquor commission, the SAQ, is joining some Montreal restaurants in removing wines from an Ontario winemaker who is the focus of sexual misconduct claims.

The allegations are against Prince Edward County winemaker Norman Hardie, the founder of an esteemed winery and vineyard.

"In light of the recent development, the Société des alcools du Québec decided to remove Mr. Hardie's products from our shelves," SAQ spokesperson Mathieu Gaudreault said in an email to CBC.  

He said the products will not be available online either.

Some Montreal restaurants have also decided to stop serving Hardie's wines and absorb the financial loss rather than be associated with him.

The allegations against Hardie were first reported by The Globe and Mail. Based on interviews with more than 50 people, the report described a "wide-ranging pattern of alleged sexual advances and sexual harassment" by the winemaker.

Three women accused Hardie of unwanted sexual contact, including kissing and groping, according to the report.

CBC News has not independently verified the claims.

Hardie apologizes

In a statement issued Wednesday, Hardie said "some of the allegations made against me are not true, but many are."

"Behaviour and language I viewed at the time as harmless or good-natured was anything but," he wrote.

"To all those who felt marginalized, demeaned or objectified while working for or alongside me, I am truly very sorry."

After seeing the story, Barbara Irwin, the majority owner of Monkland Tavern, removed Hardie's wines from her wine list.

"It wasn't even a discussion," she said.

She expects to lose a few hundred dollars because of the bottles she now won't sell.

An industry of late nights, alcohol

David McMillan, the chef and co-owner of Joe Beef and Liverpool House, said the allegations against Hardie will create space for more stories to come out.

He said they also made him question his complacency in the past when he saw men being lecherous toward the women around them.

"I should have said, 'don't talk that way,'" he said. "I'll act differently with these people in the future."

Restaurateurs admit however, that sexual impropriety is something they see a lot of in their industry.

"This [industry] is maybe more, vulnerable to this type of thing because the alcohol and everything else that goes on," said sommelier Vanya Filipovic, owner of the Montreal wine agency Vin de Jeanne.

She worked with Hardie for years and remembers "questionable jokes."

"It's a business that's tricky, there's a lot of alcohol involved and stuff happens after sunset," she said.

She was contacted by The Globe and Mail in November about the investigation and from that point on, said she stopped carrying Hardie's wines.

She and McMillan say they have been eager to speak out about the situation, but were asked not to talk about it until the story was published.

"He's a scumbag and people know that now," McMillan said. "I waited six months to talk about it." 

Now that the allegations are out in the open, he said he's surprised at the people staying silent.

"I'm disappointed with my peers," he said. "A lot of his long-time supporters are conspicuously silent."

The SAQ joins the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), which announced Thursday it would not restock Norman Hardie products.