In late March, when the Ontario government allowed bars and restaurants to add alcohol to their take-away and delivery orders, it was a rescue measure for Z Bar & Grille.
“We were bustling around. We’ve got everything in place… and we’ve made it, ”said Suzette Henry, owner of a Jamaican pub near Keele St. and Eglinton Ave. “We didn’t have to close. I didn’t have to fire or fire anyone. ”
But in the next blockade, a new partnership between LCBO, Crown, and SkipTheDishes, which provides food on demand, has kept me from “sails” said Henry.
The partnership announced Friday, which begins with 15 LCBO locations in Toronto, is sparking fire from troubled independent restaurant owners who say they cannot compete with LCBO prices. The partnership is said to be faced with the image Prime Minister Doug Ford portrayed during the pandemic as the champion of small business owners.
“Doug Ford should never have let this happen, it’s a bull’s eye for the already limping restaurants and bars,” said Jen Agg, owner of several Toronto restaurants, including Rhum Corner and Bar Vendetta. Agg noted that bars and restaurants “do not receive wholesale prices” from the LCBO.
In a statement from the finance ministry on Saturday, press officer Emily Hogeveen said: “The LCBO is governed by an independent board of directors and has made this decision independent of the government or the government. The government continues to encourage everyone to support small and local businesses during this difficult time. “
The LCBO, which saw sales surge during the pandemic, did not respond to a request for comment. In a statement on the LCBO website, announcing the partnership, George Soleas, LCBO President and CEO, said: “We anticipate it will be a great success over the holiday season and hope to continue to expand services across the province in the new year. “
SkipTheDishes spokeswoman Melanie Fatouros-Richardson said in a company statement that its couriers are already delivering alcohol from both restaurants and vendors in Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.
“In these provinces, we did not see any evidence that selling alcohol to our restaurant partners was hurt when alcohol retailers went online,” Fatouros-Richardson said. “Adding a bottle of wine to your dinner order or beer on wings has historically been a different occasion than ordering directly from an alcohol vendor. The pandemic has increased sales of alcohol in restaurants across the country and continues to rise as we enter the busy holiday season. “
But Tomas Morana, owner of Bar Volo, a bottle store and brewery near Yonge Street and Wellesley Street that offers take-away alcohol and Italian cuisine, said the partnership puts his company at a competitive disadvantage.
“We are forced to sell our food, wine and beer stocks only through delivery apps and pick up, and now we have LCBOs coming and undercutting us because their prices will be much lower than ours,” he said. “We can only offer products that you won’t find in the LCBO.”
Toronto dining outlets and patios are closing to curb the rising number of COVID cases.
The Beer Store launched a 10-week home delivery pilot project with SkipTheDishes on November 30. But in an email on Saturday, Beer Store CEO Ted Moroz said his company had decided to halt the program “given the current health restrictions imposed on our restaurant and bar partners” who “continue to face unprecedented challenges during the pandemic.”
With files from Cheyenne Bholla