Ontario’s hard-hit hospitality industry is urging the province to give licensed bars and restaurants a reduced price on alcohol.

A new change.org petition started by David Ouellette, beverage director at the highly anticipated Vela (by Amanda Bradley of Alo and Robin Goodfellow of Bar Raval), opening this spring, asks for an immediate 25% reduction in the LCBO markup on alcohol sales to bar and restaurant licensees.

Ouellette is one of several people in the business calling out for lowered alcohol prices.

What’s really needed is wholesale pricing, but that, said Ouellette in a statement, will take too long. The25% reduction is a more realistic goal and will give fast relief to the sector.

Ontario’s antiquated liquor laws are the reason bars and restaurants pay full retail price through the LCBO for the alcohol they serve; to make any sort of profit they then add their margin, and consumers are left paying through the nose when they order a drink at a restaurant, bar or club.

John Sinopoli, co-owner of Ascari Hospitality Group and co-founder of SaveHospitality.ca — a grassroots coalition of Canadian restaurant and hospitality businesses — wrote about this issue last month in the Toronto Sun.

The upcoming Ontario budget expected in March, he said, “presents an opportunity for a regulatory change that is completely in line with the platform that Premier Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservative government campaigned on, i.e. reducing taxes for small business, modernizing the LCBO, and the sale of alcohol in Ontario.”

Sinopoli acknowledged that Ford’s government has already made an important change by allowing restaurants to sell alcohol with take-out.

Still, wholesale prices would be an economic game-changer; as the new petition states, even a 25% reduction will help the industry and the consumer, and will also, “Return huge dividends to the LCBO as this reduction in the markup will be the single most effective investment in future sales that the LCBO will ever make.”

What’s at stake are more than 30,000 establishments and more than 300,000 employees.

Support for Ouellette’s petition and the push for lower alcohol prices to bars and restaurants is coming from David Clement, North American affairs manager for the Consumer Choice Center.

Clement says this is one way the province could really help both consumers and bar and restaurant operations right now.

“Consumers want, and need, more competitive pricing at restaurants for beer, wine, and spirits, and this change would do exactly that,” said Clement.

“Ideally restaurants would be able to order beverage alcohol directly from producers without having to deal with the LCBO as the middleman. All the LCBO’s involvement does is ensure artificially-high prices for consumers.”

This change would also help businesses recover after the pandemic is finally over.

“This could be the lightning rod needed to get people back into restaurants post-COVID. It has an immense upside now, and after COVID is gone.”

There are other hoped-for changes, said Clement. Grocery stores that now sell beer and wine could also sell spirits, if the government would allow it.

The government has already shown itself willing to change, said Clement, via extended hours of sale, allowing delivery from restaurants and their commitment to eventually sell alcohol in convenience stores.

Lowering the markup now“is part of fixing our archaic and dated alcohol system.”

Originally published here.



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