Report card rates province's liquor policies

Canadian Pizza
November 07, 2017
By Canadian Pizza
Toronto –  A report card by Restaurants Canada rates each province on its liquor policies for bars and restaurants, and calls on the federal government to take action in on excise tax and interprovincial trade.
Restaurants Canada wants the federal government to revoke a hidden “tax escalator” that will automatically increase the federal excise tax on beer, wine and spirits every year without a review or a vote in Parliament. The measure, announced in the 2017 federal budget, is estimated to cost business owners and consumers nearly half a billion dollars in five years, the association said in a news release.

The report urges the government to move forward on allowing free trade in beer, wine and spirits, which were specifically excluded from the Canada Free Trade Agreement released earlier this year. A New Brunswick man, Gerard Comeau, is challenging current laws in this area, and his case will be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada on Dec. 7, it notes.
“Ottawa’s involvement in liquor policy has so far done more to hinder the hospitality industry than to help it, but the government has a real opportunity to change things for the better,” said Joyce Reynolds, executive vice-president of government affairs for Restaurants Canada, in the release.

At the provincial level, Alberta gets top marks on the report card, but earns a “B” instead of an “A” because of a recent increase in liquor mark-ups and an end to the liquor server wage. This special wage category recognized the significant income liquor servers earn through gratuities. On the plus side, Alberta is the only province to offer true wholesale pricing on beer, wine and spirits.

Newfoundland and Labrador is once again at the bottom of the class with a D-minus grade, the report card says. The liquor corporation has worked to improve relations with licensees, but high prices, limited selection and excess red tape continue to frustrate business owners. 

“Lack of wholesale pricing continues to be the number one irritant for our licensed members in most provinces,” Reynolds said. “It makes no sense that high-volume buyers like bars and restaurants pay the same retail price that individual consumers do, or in some cases even higher.”

In addition to price, the report identifies numerous roadblocks ranging from antiquated ordering and delivery systems in Ontario to mandatory paper stamps that fall off bottles in Quebec.

The full rankings: 

Alberta – B
Quebec – B-minus                                
Nova Scotia – B-minus                                           
Prince Edward Island – B-minus         
British Columbia – C                             
Manitoba – C                              
Saskatchewan – C-minus                      
Ontario – D-plus                                
New Brunswick – D                  
Newfoundland – D-minus                               

“Many provinces have made headway since our first Raise the Bar report in 2015, and we look forward to continued progress,” Reynolds said. “Updated liquor regulations and true wholesale pricing are good for business, good for customers and good for Canadian hospitality.”

Read the complete Raise the Bar report card. 

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