Changes to provincial liquor regulations that allow Alberta bars and restaurants to sell alcohol through takeout or delivery for customers to drink off-site will remain in place, even after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The amendment to the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Regulation, which allows the liquor sales with or without the purchase of food, was put in place at the start of the pandemic as a way to help restaurants and bars stay open.
“As it’s now in the provincial regulation, it’s implemented and would require amendments to the GLCR in order to change it,” according to AGLC spokesperson Heather Holmen.
There are no indications the UCP government has any plans to reverse course.
Charlotte Taillon, press secretary for the office of the associate minister of Red Tape Reduction, said the changes will remain after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted to provide flexibility to restaurants and bars.
“Although the changes were made during the onset of the pandemic, it is part of government’s broader red tape reduction plan and was expedited to support businesses through these challenging times,” Taillon said in a statement.
“Our government is thrilled to provide restaurants the ability to adapt, innovate and change the way they do business to better suit changing consumer needs.”
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C.J. Rowein, general manager of The Next Act Pub, said the initial changes made a difference to the restaurant just off Whyte Avenue.
“It gave us the opportunity to liquidate all of our stock. It gave us the opportunity to give our customer base a more full experience,” he said.
“Customers are used to coming to The Next Act and grab a burger and a beer…but now we can offer that in a takeout sense.”
The burger joint moved to takeout only after the province shut down all non-essential services, which included the dining rooms of restaurants.
Rowein said having that option to include liquor as a takeout option helped the restaurant during this challenging time.
“It gives our business the opportunity to make as much profit as possible and at least come out of this ahead as opposed to in the hole,” he said.
Though restaurants could open again as early as Thursday, Rowein said The Next Act Pub will continue with take-out and delivery for the time being and he is happy to hear the liquor amendment will remain in place.
“We can only operate at 50 per cent capacity once we do actually open our doors to customers. Having the opportunity to continue to do liquor sales with take-out food gives us the opportunity to at least get back on track for what we were doing before,” he said.
More response to changes in liquor regulation
Mark von Schellwitz, vice president of Western Canada for Restaurants Canada, said allowing the amendment to stay in place will allow restaurants to navigate the new normal.
“With the new restrictions in place, with physical distancing and 50 per cent occupancy, I think takeout and delivery is going to be a much more permanent feature of the overall sales mix of restaurants,” he said.
“The takeout and delivery of alcohol helps add those incremental sales and we certainly appreciate that.”
Ivonne Martinez, president of the Alberta Liquor Store Association, said she has no issues with the new regulation and understands times have been tough for the restaurant industry. However, she said it boils down to consumer choice at the end of the day.
“Albertans will have to make the decision with their dollars as to whether they would like to buy, say a bottle of wine from a restaurant or at a liquor store, where they can get it for less than half the price that the restaurant is selling at,” she said.
Martinez has some concern with the change allowing restaurants to sell liquor without food, saying it turns them into de facto liquor stores; she hopes it’s an issue the province will revisit.
“Our liquor stores have to follow very strict regulations and laws to sell liquor. If restaurants would like to call themselves liquor stores, we believe they should be put through the same regulations and held to the same standards liquor stores are held up to,” she said.
Taillon said the government is not considering regulating restaurants like liquor stores at this time.
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