Manitoba to allow restaurants to sell booze with take out and delivery

By | March 30, 2020

Manitoba will allow restaurants to sell alcohol at dine-in prices with take out and delivery orders following a push from business owners, the province announced Monday afternoon.

Premier Brian Pallister and Crown Services Minister Jeff Wharton met with restaurant owners, the Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association and other industry leaders Monday afternoon at the Manitoba Legislature.

The association has been pushing for the delivery of alcohol as restaurants struggle to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Facebook post leads to meeting

Jay Kilgour is a franchisee who owns two Fionn MacCool’s in the city. He called on the government Sunday on social media to allow restaurants to sell booze and said shortly after, Pallister’s office got in touch to set up a meeting.

Shaun Jeffrey, executive director, Manitoba Restaurant Association. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

He told CBC News on Monday that his sales have been down 90 per cent and while take out orders are up, it only normally makes up about six per cent of his revenue.

He said about 40 per cent of his business is alcohol sales. He said the change might let him bring some of the roughly 65 staff members he’s had to lay off back to work.

The staff would do deliveries and be used instead of third-party services like Skip the Dishes, he said.

“Laying off the amount of people I did last week is not fun,” said Kilgour. “It’s something I won’t forget that feeling the rest of my life and so I owe it to them to do everything I can to try and increase revenue so I can bring them back to work.”

He praised Pallister and Wharton for acting quickly.

People in self-isolation asking for booze with take out

“Today feels good and there’s not many days that have felt good so you gotta focus on these things like this and I think the best thing about this is it was an effort from across a bunch of different platforms and restaurants and local business people.”

About 80 per cent of restaurants in Manitoba have already proactively closed their doors and are only offering take out or delivery services, said Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association Executive Director Shaun Jeffrey.

“We need all hands on deck from an availability plus our customers have been asking for it. We’ve had a lot of customers calling restaurants and saying ‘hey can you deliver a bottle of wine with that? Can I get a bottle of beer with that because they’re self-isolating, they’re doing the right thing for flattening that curve here in Manitoba,” he said Monday.

A new public health order that comes into force Wednesday and lasts until April 14th will prohibit restaurants and other commercial facilities from serving food to customers in their businesses. Take out will still be allowed.

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The Kings Head Pub will roll out its new curbside grocery delivery service this week, in addition to take out — adding wine and beer to the menu, pub owner Chris Graves told CBC’s Up to Speed on Monday.

He said the change will make a “huge difference” for independent businesses like his, which closed its doors two weeks ago, ahead of the provincially mandated shutdown, as it provides an opportunity to quickly pivot at a crucial time.

“We’re stoked, I mean, we’ve been working really hard to get the province” to fall in line with its provincial counterparts in B.C., Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec, Graves said.

He hopes it will outlast Manitoba’s public health order and physical distancing restrictions.

“I hope that it’s not just temporary in the legislation,” he said. “I hope that it is actually truly permanent, but for the time being, it’s very important for many of us to be able to have this avenue.”

Legislation introduced

The government had already planned to allow restaurants to sell booze with take out and had introduced legislation last year that would allow the change.

However the bill never received second or third reading.

Last week, the association told CBC that allowing restaurants to sell alcohol could help them survive as their sales continue to plummet during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government didn’t say how it would allow restaurants to sell alcohol without the legislative change. Last week, a government spokesperson said it would be illegal for a restaurant to sell booze for take out.

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