Saturday , May 21 2022

SkipTheDishes and LCBO are receiving backlash from small businesses following the announcement of Toronto’s supply partnership


At the end of March, when the Ontario government allowed bars and restaurants to add alcohol to food take and delivery orders, it was a lifeline for Z Bar & Grille.

“We got busy. We got everything in place… and we did it, ”said Suzette Henry, owner of the Jamaican pub near Keele St. and Eglinton Ave. W. “We haven’t had to close. I haven’t had to fire anyone or dismiss anyone. ”

However, in the midst of another lockdown, a new partnership between the LCBO, the Crown corporation, and the food distribution service SkipTheDishes to provide on-home delivery of alcohol has taken “the wind right out of my mood,” said Henry.

Announced on Friday, the partnership, which begins with 15 LCBO locations in Toronto, is drawing fire from struggling independent restaurant owners here, who say they can’t compete with prices of the LCBO. They say the partnership flies in the face of the image that Premier Doug Ford has presented of himself during the pandemic as a champion of small business owners.

“Doug Ford should have never allowed this, it’s a big blow to restaurants and bars already limping,” said Jen Agg, who owns several Toronto restaurants, including Rhum Corner and Vendetta Bar. Agg noted that bars and restaurants do not “get wholesale prices” from the LCBO.

In a statement from the finance ministry on Saturday, spokeswoman Emily Hogeveen said: “The LCBO is governed by an arm’s-length board of directors and made this decision independently of the cabinet or government. The government continues to encourage everyone to support small and local businesses during this difficult time. “

The LCBO, which has seen an increase in sales during the pandemic, did not respond to a request for comment. In a statement on the LCBO website announcing the partnership, George Soleas, LCBO’s president and CEO, said, “We anticipate it will be a great success over the holiday season and we hope to further expand the service throughout the year. province in the new year. ”

SkipTheDishes spokeswoman Melanie Fatouros-Richardson said in a statement from the company that its couriers were already distributing alcohol from restaurants and retailers in Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.

“In these provinces, we have seen no evidence that the sale of alcohol to our restaurant partners has had a negative impact when alcohol dealers have launched on the network,” said Fatouros-Richardson. “Adding a bottle of wine to your dinner or beer order with wings has historically been a different occasion than when ordering directly from an alcohol retailer. The pandemic has driven higher alcohol distribution sales to restaurants nationwide, and they continue to grow as we enter the busy holiday season. ”

But Tomas Morana, owner of Bar Volo, a bottle shop and brewery near Yonge Street and Wellesley Street that offers take-out alcohol and Italian cuisine, said the partnership was putting its business at a competitive disadvantage.

“We are being forced to sell our food and wine and beer stock only through delivery and collection apps and now you have the LCBO coming on there and undercutting us because their prices will be much lower than our prices, ”he said. “All we can do is offer products you can’t find at the LCBO.”

Indoor dining and patios in Toronto are closed in a bid to curb surge COVID outbreaks.

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The Beer Store launched a 10-week home delivery pilot project with SkipTheDishes on November 30. But in an email on Saturday, Beer Store president Ted Moroz said his company had decided to delay the program “given current public health restrictions on our restaurant and bar partners ”who“ continue to face unprecedented challenges during the pandemic. ”

With files by Cheyenne Bholla

Rachel Mendleson
Zena Salem

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