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Big change in liquor pricing seen as a big win for B.C.’s restaurant industry

Last Updated Jun 17, 2020 at 11:15 am PDT


B.C.'s move to allow restaurants to purchase alcohol wholesale could help the struggling industry and even the consumer

The BC Restaurant and Food Services Association says establishments could lower the prices based on possible savings

This is viewed as a big victory in part because restaurants have been asking for something like this before COVID-19

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Now that restaurants in B.C. can purchase alcohol at wholesale prices next month to help the industry get back on its feet during the province’s reopening, there’s a chance it could eventually benefit the consumer as well.

It’s a pilot project that will extend to next March, and Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association, says we could see establishments eventually lower the price on the menu for customers if bars and restaurants are saving 20 per cent on their liquor purchases.

“The economics are so bad for restaurants that this will actually allow places to stay open. The theory is that this will stabilize the industry, and once it’s stable, you will see for sure prices coming down,” he said. “There’s a bit more right now even that places can play with right now that will create value for the consumers.”

RELATED: Province helps hard-hit hospitality industry with wholesale liquor pricing

This is viewed as a big victory in part because restaurants have been asking for something like this for a long time pre-COVID.

“Right now [restaurants] pay full retail like you and I. The other part of it is historically in Canada, no liquor board has ever given any price breaks to a reseller like a restaurant,” Tostenson adds.

“The government gets it, and they have every rationale to do this based on the economy and the weakness that’s in the sector right now.”

The deal should save restaurant operators about 20 per cent on alcohol costs. That money can now be allocated elsewhere, such as staffing and other projects, like Plexiglass installation to help ensure proper physical distancing.

Tostenson tells NEWS 1130 he’s heard from a few operators who now feel like they may be able to survive thanks to the project.

“There’s one restaurant group that has four restaurants – they say this move will save them two hundred thousand dollars, and they said that will allow them to pick up the extra labour cost on minimum wage and employer’s health tax. Another employer told me they can bring back 50 employees,” he said.

Meanwhile, the BC Craft Brewers Guild is also applauding the decision.

“The pandemic is having a devastating effect on our hospitality sector in British Columbia. This announcement will encourage many businesses to remain open and allow them to serve our great local craft beer products to their customers.” BC Craft Brewers Guild Ken Beattie said in a statement.