In late March, when the Ontario government allowed bars and restaurants to add alcohol to takeout and delivery orders, it was a lifeline for Z Bar & Grille.
We hurried. We’ve got everything in place… and we’ve made it, ”said Suzette Henry, the owner of the Jamaican pub near Keele St. and Eglinton Ave. W.“ We didn’t have to close. I didn’t have to fire anyone or fire anyone. ”
However, in the midst of another lockdown, a new partnership between the LCBO, a Crown Corporation, and food delivery service SkipTheDishes to deliver alcohol on-call home, “has taken the wind out of my sails,” said Henry.
It was announced Friday that the partnership, which begins with 15 LCBO locations in Toronto, is drawing fire from struggling independent restaurant owners here, who say they can’t compete with the LCBO’s prices. They say the partnership is at odds with Prime Minister Doug Ford’s image of himself during the pandemic as champion of small business owners.
“Doug Ford should never have allowed this, it’s a garbled shot at already limping restaurants and bars,” said Jen Agg, who owns several restaurants in Toronto, including Rhum Corner and Bar Vendetta. Agg noted that bars and restaurants “don’t get wholesale prices” from the LCBO.
In a statement from the Treasury Department, spokesman Emily Hogeveen said on Saturday: “The LCBO is run by an independent board of directors and made this decision independent of cabinet or government. The government continues to encourage everyone to support small and local businesses in this difficult time. “
The LCBO, which has seen an increase in sales during the pandemic, did not respond to a request for comment. In a statement on LCBO’s website announcing the partnership, George Soleas, LCBO President and CEO said: “We expect it to be a great success over the holiday season and we hope to expand the service further in the new year. throughout the province. “
A SkipTheDishes spokesperson, Melanie Fatouros-Richardson, said in a statement from the company that its couriers already deliver alcohol from restaurants and vendors in Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.
“In these counties, we saw no evidence that alcohol sales to our restaurant partners have been negatively impacted by the launch of alcohol vendors on the network,” Fatouros-Richardson said. “Historically, adding a bottle of wine to your dinner order or a beer with your wings has been a different occasion than ordering directly from an alcohol vendor. The pandemic has fueled alcohol sales in restaurants across the country, and they continue to grow as we head into the busy holiday season. “
But Tomas Morana, an owner of Bar Volo, a bottle shop and brewery near Yonge Street and Wellesley Street that offers take-away alcohol and Italian fare, said the partnership puts his business at a competitive disadvantage.
“We have been forced to sell our food, wine and beer supplies only through delivery apps and takeout, and now you have the LCBO arriving there and undercutting us because their prices will be much lower than ours,” he said. “All we can do is we can offer products that you cannot find on the LCBO.”
Indoor dining and patios in Toronto have been closed to curb rising COVID cases.
The Beer Store launched a 10-week home delivery pilot with SkipTheDishes on November 30. But in an email on Saturday, Beer Store CEO Ted Moroz said his company has decided to pause the program “given the current public health restrictions at our restaurant and bar partners ‘who’ are still unprecedented during the pandemic. challenges’.
With files from Cheyenne Bholla