Rising costs are hard to swallow for Alberta’s bar and restaurant owners

Published November 7, 2017

Province earns “B” grade in new “Raise the Bar” report card

Alberta is known as one of the most business-friendly places to run a bar or licensed restaurant, but that reputation is slipping according to a report card issued today by Restaurants Canada.

The industry group gives Alberta a “B” grade in today’s Raise the Bar report card on provincial liquor policies, down from a B-plus in the first report card issued two years ago.

The two main reasons for the downgrade are an increase in provincial liquor mark-ups on beer, wine and spirits, and the government’s decision to cancel the liquor server wage, which had long been in place to recognize that these employees earn gratuities in excess of minimum wage.

“Labour costs in our industry are second only to food and beverage costs, so when the government decides to increase both at the same time, the math doesn’t add up for bar and restaurant owners. For the government to hit businesses with these extra costs during a recession adds insult to injury,” says Mark von Schellwitz, Restaurants Canada’s vice president, Western Canada.

The report gives credit to Alberta for offering wholesale pricing to licensees, but calls out a 25-case minimum order requirement that discriminates against smaller bar and restaurant owners.

“We’re asking the government to follow through on a promised review that would have updated several antiquated laws and regulations,” says von Schellwitz. “This is an industry that builds communities, promotes local products, creates jobs and provides the best in Alberta hospitality. Why not work together to help it thrive?”

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 is at the top of class as the only province that offers true wholesale pricing. 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.

Restaurants Canada Digital

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