Ontario’s Liquor and Labour Policies Leave Bar and Restaurant Owners Out in the Cold

Published November 7, 2017

Province receives a D-plus grade in “Raise the Bar” report card

Ontario is one of the three worst provinces in Canada when it comes to liquor prices and policies affecting bars and restaurants, according to the latest Raise the Bar report card, issued today by industry group Restaurants Canada.

Ontario earns a D-plus on the report card, due to limited product selection, outdated ordering and delivery systems and lack of wholesale pricing. Bar and restaurant owners pay as much as home consumers do for beer, wine and spirits, and in some cases even more – a continual source of frustration for business owners.

Recent changes to liquor sales in the province were a boon to grocery stores, but did very little to help bars and restaurants.

“Ontario is the largest buyer of alcohol in the world, but bar and restaurant owners see none of the benefit and in fact fare worse than their counterparts in many other provinces,” says Steve Virtue, Restaurants Canada’s interim vice president, Ontario. “Through its liquor reforms over the past two years, the government has provided more incentive for consumers to stay home, rather than enjoy a night out at a bar or restaurant.”

A rapidly rising minimum wage is also putting pressure on many bar and restaurant owners.

“Our industry is not opposed to minimum wage increases, but in Ontario the rate is rising so quickly that it’s not giving bar and restaurant operators enough time to adapt,” says Virtue.  “Between liquor policies and labour policies, this government has created a much more challenging operating environment.”

Restaurants Canada is asking Ontario for wholesale pricing and improvements to selection, ordering and delivery of alcoholic beverages, noting that bars and restaurants invest in local communities, create jobs, serve Canadian-made products and hosts tourists and visitors from around the world.

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.

Restaurants Canada Digital

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