B.C. working on liquor discount for restaurants, fast tracking patio approvals

A woman walks past a closed restaurant in a quiet downtown, amid concerns about the spread of COVID-19, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Vancouver city council is also preparing to debate the issue of making more room for restaurants and Mayor Kennedy Stewart has said the city must think creatively to help spur recovery. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck.

Restaurants across the province may soon be able to purchase beer, wine and liquor at wholesale prices.

B.C. Premier John Horgan has asked Attorney General David Eby to fast track work being done to allow restaurants to purchase alcohol at the wholesale price. Currently the industry must purchase alcohol at the retail price.

“The premier understands, as do I, how critical this is for restaurants. That every day that goes by is critically important to them financially and what their re-opening plans look like,” Eby said.

“We are moving this through as quickly as possible.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. restaurants set to reopen with new safety measures'
B.C. restaurants set to reopen with new safety measures

Eby says the province has been working with the industry “for a while” on making changes to provide discounts for restaurants on alcohol prices.

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The restaurant industry is grappling with how to operate under COVID-19 restrictions. The industry has been raising concerns the price of liquor could be a hindrance to operating, considering the other measures the industry must put in place.

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Restaurants are expected to be allowed to re-open starting next week. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is expected to amend a provincial order mandating restaurants cease dine-in service until the end of May.

Eby is also looking at helping restaurants fast track the approval of outdoor eating spaces. Currently municipalities have tight restrictions on patio permit approvals, which include inspections, looking into neighborhood impacts, fire risk and customer safety.

The province expects inspections to continue and says it will require restaurants to uphold the highest safety standards, but is working on ways to allow restaurants to expand outdoors more quickly.

“[The premier] has asked us to work with our regulator to find ways to accelerate patio approvals. There are a number of different tools,” Eby said.
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“The rules that make all the right sense normally need to be revisited in an emergency.”

Restaurants will be required to have enhanced safety measures in place, including distance between tables, plexiglass shields separating people where physical distancing is not possible, and a public posting of how the restaurant is abiding by provincial COVID-19 regulations.

Dr. Henry says table service will be possible, but staff will move quickly and not hang around the table and chat.

Click to play video: 'B.C. restaurant industry warns reopening  will be a struggle'
B.C. restaurant industry warns reopening will be a struggle

BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson sent a letter to Horgan on Wednesday asking for help for the hospitality sector.

Restaurants Canada is estimating 121,500 B.C. jobs have been lost in the sector alone.

The Liberals want to see a doubling of the tax deduction for business-related meals to 100 per cent, help for municipalities to expedite permits for patio and outdoor dining as and a move to wholesale liquor pricing for restaurants.

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“With nearly one out of 10 restaurants having already closed their doors permanently and another 18 per cent likely to soon if current conditions continue, we must act now,” wrote Wilkinson.

“We urge you to move quickly on providing this relief so that British Columbians’ restauranteurs can get back in business again soon.”

The government is already moving on many of Wilkinson’s requests.

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