Booze industry sends Doug Ford a message in a bottle with an SOS

It’s not the first time a message in a bottle has been used to send out an SOS.But in this case, SOS stands for spirits on shelves.As Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives liberalize liquor licensing laws in Ontario, distillers want Queen’s Park to level the playing field for them.Spirits Canada has delivered bottles to MPPs containing more the 2,000 letters urging the province to allow the sale of whisky, brandy, gin, vodka, and rum on supermarket shelves.“While the world would be a better place if each of these bottles were filled with world-class Ontario spirits, we have an important message to deliver from not only consumers, but also distillers and grain farmers in our province,” Spirits Canada president and CEO Jan Westcott said.“It’s only fair Ontario distillers and grain farmers are afforded the same opportunity as vintners and brewers to showcase their work,” said Westcott.  “The stakes are high for the spirits industry,” he said, noting the sector supports 6,000 jobs in the province and more than 225,000 tons of Ontario-grown grain is used by distillers.“Our province needs to treat spirits as fairly as it treats beer and wine for the continued vitality of everyone deeply ingrained in the industry.”Under former Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne, the province allowed 450 grocery stores to sell beer and wine, but spirits remained the exclusive purview of the 666-outlet Liquor Control Board of Ontario monopoly.But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has devastated the hospitality industry, Ford’s government has allowed restaurants and bars to sell beer, wine, and spirits to go.Initially a temporary measure that would have expired at the end of the year, the Tories plan to make off-licence sales permanent.A Campaign Research survey for the Star in June found nearly three-quarters of Ontarians — 73 per cent — backed allowing restaurants and bars to offer takeout alcohol.Only 16 per cent opposed the off-licence sales, which took effect March 26, while 12 per cent had no opinion.Thousands of struggling restaurants and bars across the province have embraced the change, which has transformed many of them into boutique bottle shops.Because the LCBO continues to control all wine and spirits distribution, the treasury’s bottom line does not appear to be adversely affected.Most bars get their suds from the privately owned Beer Store.In May, Ford, himself a teetotaller, signalled that the pandemic has forced a rethink of many businesses.“There’s going to be a lot of things, as we say, the new way of business — and not only in government, but in the private sector, too,” he said at the time.Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

Booze industry sends Doug Ford a message in a bottle with an SOS

It’s not the first time a message in a bottle has been used to send out an SOS.

But in this case, SOS stands for spirits on shelves.

As Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives liberalize liquor licensing laws in Ontario, distillers want Queen’s Park to level the playing field for them.

Spirits Canada has delivered bottles to MPPs containing more the 2,000 letters urging the province to allow the sale of whisky, brandy, gin, vodka, and rum on supermarket shelves.

“While the world would be a better place if each of these bottles were filled with world-class Ontario spirits, we have an important message to deliver from not only consumers, but also distillers and grain farmers in our province,” Spirits Canada president and CEO Jan Westcott said.

“It’s only fair Ontario distillers and grain farmers are afforded the same opportunity as vintners and brewers to showcase their work,” said Westcott. 

“The stakes are high for the spirits industry,” he said, noting the sector supports 6,000 jobs in the province and more than 225,000 tons of Ontario-grown grain is used by distillers.

“Our province needs to treat spirits as fairly as it treats beer and wine for the continued vitality of everyone deeply ingrained in the industry.”

Under former Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne, the province allowed 450 grocery stores to sell beer and wine, but spirits remained the exclusive purview of the 666-outlet Liquor Control Board of Ontario monopoly.

But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has devastated the hospitality industry, Ford’s government has allowed restaurants and bars to sell beer, wine, and spirits to go.

Initially a temporary measure that would have expired at the end of the year, the Tories plan to make off-licence sales permanent.

A Campaign Research survey for the Star in June found nearly three-quarters of Ontarians — 73 per cent — backed allowing restaurants and bars to offer takeout alcohol.

Only 16 per cent opposed the off-licence sales, which took effect March 26, while 12 per cent had no opinion.

Thousands of struggling restaurants and bars across the province have embraced the change, which has transformed many of them into boutique bottle shops.

Because the LCBO continues to control all wine and spirits distribution, the treasury’s bottom line does not appear to be adversely affected.

Most bars get their suds from the privately owned Beer Store.

In May, Ford, himself a teetotaller, signalled that the pandemic has forced a rethink of many businesses.

“There’s going to be a lot of things, as we say, the new way of business — and not only in government, but in the private sector, too,” he said at the time.

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

Source : Toronto Star More