In late March, when the Ontario government allowed bars and restaurants to add alcohol to food and delivery orders, this was Z Bar & Grille’s lifeblood.
“We are crowded. “We didn’t have to close,” said Suzette Henry, the owner of the Jamaican bar near Kelly Street and Eglinton Street. “I didn’t have to fire anyone or fire anyone.”
However, in the midst of another shutdown, a new partnership between LCBO, the Crown Company, and SkipTheDishes food delivery service to offer an on-demand home alcohol delivery service has taken over “the wind from my sails,” said Henry.
The partnership, announced on Friday, that started with 15 LCBO locations in Toronto has been announced, sparking criticism of the struggling independent restaurant owners here, who say they can’t compete with LCBO’s pricing. They say the partnership conflicts with the image Prime Minister Doug Ford has presented of himself during the pandemic as a champion for the small business owner.
“Doug Ford should never have allowed this,” said Jane Ag, who owns several restaurants in Toronto, including Room Corner and Vendetta Bar. “It’s a really distorted shot of restaurants and bars that are really limp.” Agg noted that bars and restaurants “do not get wholesale prices” from LCBO.
In a statement issued by the Finance Ministry on Saturday, Finance Ministry spokeswoman Emily Hoogeveen said: “LCBO is governed by a broad board of directors and this decision has been taken independently of cabinet or government. The government continues to encourage everyone to support small and local businesses during this difficult time.”
LCBO, which has seen soaring sales during the pandemic, did not respond to a request for comment. In a statement on the LCBO website announcing the partnership, George Solias, President and CEO of LCBO, said, “We expect it to be a huge success during the holiday season and hope to expand the service further across the province in the new year.”
SkipTheDishes spokeswoman Melanie Fatoros-Richardson said in a statement issued by the company that its couriers are already delivering alcohol from both restaurants and vendors in Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.
“In these counties, we have not seen any evidence that our restaurant partners’ alcohol sales were adversely affected when alcohol sellers started taking off the network,” said Fatoros Richardson. “Adding a bottle of wine to your dinner order or beer with your wings was historically a different occasion than it was when ordering directly from an alcohol vendor. The pandemic has resulted in higher sales of alcoholic beverage delivery to restaurants across the country, and has continued to grow as season enters. Busy holidays. “
But Thomas Morana, the owner of Bar Volo, a bottle shop and brewery near Yonge Street and Wellesley Street serving alcoholic beverages and Italian food, said the partnership was putting his company at a competitive disadvantage.
“We’re forced to be only able to sell our food, wine and beer stock through drop-and-go apps, and now you have LCBO coming in there and undermining us because its prices are going to be much lower than ours,” he said. “All we can do is offer products that you can’t find on LCBO.”
Toronto’s dining and indoor patios have been closed in an effort to curb the rise in coronavirus cases.
The Beer Store launched a 10-week home delivery pilot project with SkipTheDishes on November 30th. But in an email on Saturday, the president of The Beer Store, Ted Moroz, said his company had decided to pause the program “due to current public health restrictions on our restaurant and bar partners” who “continue to face unprecedented challenges during the pandemic.”
With files from Cheyenne Bhula
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