Raise the Bar: COVID-19 Special Edition

Learn how liquor policies across the country are impacting bars and restaurants as they work to recover from their pandemic losses. Restaurants Canada’s Raise the Bar report evaluates provincial liquor policies within four major categories and assigns each province an overall letter grade based on how agreeable their policies are for licensed foodservice operators.

Latest Issue: 2022

Free to download! Click here for access.

Raise the Bar is a report produced every two years by Restaurants Canada evaluating how liquor policies are continuing to help or hinder bars and restaurants across the country. After a one-year delay due to the pandemic, Raise the Bar 2022 is a special COVID-19 edition that sheds light on what licensed establishments need to survive the road to recovery.

Report Highlights
  • The policy landscape for operating a licensed establishment has improved in about half of all provinces, compared to before the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Responding to a survey at the start of 2022, the vast majority of bar and restaurant operators said they were either losing money or barely scraping by: 38% said they were operating at a loss just to keep their doors open, 24% said they were just breaking even, and 11% said they were making a pre-tax profit of less than 2%.
  • At the federal level, the 2022 budget included an important first step in the right direction for alcohol taxation, with the elimination of the excise duty on low-alcohol beer.
  • Alberta continues to defend its spot at the top of the class, with the friendliest policies for liquor licensees. 
  • New Brunswick has earned the title of “Most Improved” province for operating a licensed foodservice establishment, mainly due to major progress on liquor pricing. 
  • Saskatchewan now ranks at the bottom of the class compared to other jurisdictions, due to an uneven pricing model and disruptive behaviour halting off-site alcohol sales during the ongoing pandemic.
  • All provinces now allow bars and restaurants to sell alcohol with takeout and delivery orders, which helped them pivot their operations during the pandemic. However, licensed establishments often struggle with competitive disadvantages that undermine this new revenue stream.
  • Licensed establishments now have access to some form of discounted or wholesale liquor pricing in most provinces. But bar and restaurant operators are still paying the same as retail customers, and in some cases even more, when purchasing certain types of beverage alcohol in some provinces.
  • Outdated laws and regulations that are out of step with modern business practices are still on the books in every province. Liquor rules have not kept pace with evolving market conditions, leaving licensees poorly positioned to survive and thrive in today’s landscape, let alone prepare for the future.
  • There’s still a need for the introduction or preservation of a liquor server wage in every province to allow restaurateurs to allocate more towards higher wages for non-gratuity earning kitchen staff, who are typically harder to attract and retain.

Interested in participating in the next Raise the Bar report? Restaurants Canada encourages licensed foodservice operators to participate in the biennial Raise the Bar survey to ensure results referenced in this report continue to reflect an accurate representation of our industry. Contact Chris Elliott at celliott@restaurantscanada.org to receive the next survey.

You Might Also Like