High Cost of Beer, Wine and Spirits Hard to Swallow for B.C.’s Bar and Restaurant Owners

Published November 7, 2017

Province drops to “C” grade in latest “Raise the Bar” report card

Things are getting worse, not better, when it comes to British Columbia’s liquor policies. That’s the finding of a report issued today by Restaurants Canada, a business group that represents restaurant and bar owners in the province.

Lack of wholesale pricing is the key factor behind the mediocre “C” grade awarded to B.C. in the new Raise the Bar report card. B.C.’s bar and restaurant owners are required to pay full retail price for the beer, wine and spirits they sell to their patrons.

“The previous government made a series of positive announcements after the liquor review in 2015, but they stopped short of offering wholesale pricing for bars and restaurants,” says Mark von Schellwitz, Restaurants Canada’s vice president for Western Canada. “It really is a glass-half-empty scenario. Private liquor stores got a price break, but our industry did not. It’s getting harder and harder for bar and restaurant owners to swallow these high prices.”

In the first Raise the Bar report card, issued two years ago, British Columbia earned a
C-plus, with hopes running high that the province would introduce wholesale pricing for bars and restaurants.

Raise the Bar rates each province on the bar- and restaurant-friendliness of their liquor policies, primarily in terms of price, selection, licensing and regulation. Alberta earned the top mark, a “B”, as the only province to offer true wholesale pricing on beer, wine and spirits. Newfoundland and Labrador is at the bottom of the class with D-minus due to high prices, limited selection and excess red tape.

The full rankings are:

Province Grade
Alberta B
Quebec B-
Nova Scotia B-
P.E.I. B-
British Columbia C
Manitoba C
Saskatchewan C-
Ontario D+
New Brunswick D
Newfoundland D-

Canada’s bars and licensed restaurants represent 48,000 businesses, directly employ 560,000 Canadians, and generate $8.2 billion a year in economic activity, 97% of which goes back to the community through wages, benefits, business purchases and charitable donations.

The complete Raise the Bar report card is available at restaurantscanada.org/raise-the-bar-2017.

Marlee Wasser

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