Alcohol running dry for restaurant industry as BCGEU goes on strike

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Alcohol slowly running dry for service industry after BCGEU strike
The British Columbia General Employees Union have taken the next step after issuing a strike notice. They have set up picket lines outside of liquor distribution centres across the province. As Jasmine King reports, this could have a big impact on restaurants and liquor stores in the coming days. – Aug 17, 2022

The British Columbia General Employees Union (BCGEU) have set up picket lines outside of liquor distribution centres across the province.

Four BC Liquor wholesale and distribution centres have been for targeted job action. This puts pressure on the service industry as restaurants, liquor stores, retail stores and hospitality are no longer receiving alcohol deliveries.

“We think we have about maybe five or six days supply before we start to have a shortage,” said BC Restuarant and Food Association (BCRFA), president and CEO Ian Tostenson.

Deliveries are paused for spirits and products made with hard alcohol. At Kelly O’Bryan’s restaurant and pub in West Kelowna, the halt will mean a loss in profit.

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“It’ll be huge, 20 per cent of my business is liquor. It will be big if it continues too long,” said Kelly O’Bryan’s owner Ben Shave.

Shave says they currently have around two weeks left of alcohol. They will still be able to receive beer and wine as that product comes from suppliers outside the province. However, after a few challenging years in the service industry, it’s another setback.

“It’s just another shot in the restaurant industry. We just spent the last three years trying to get through COVID-19 and dealing with all the shutdowns and changes. (We had to) adapt and overcome. We’ll just have to adapt and overcome one more time,” Shave said.

Liquor stores across the province are starting to see their supply dwindle. Cask and Barrel liquor store owner Devin Smith said he had no idea this was going to happen.

“We just received one email that said you won’t be getting deliveries anymore.”

The store didn’t receive any deliveries this week and their most popular items are starting to run dry. Smith says some customers are already coming into the store and stocking up on products. He says this will also have an impact on smaller producers across the province as their delivery lines are cut off.

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“Even though a lot of the craft breweries and wineries deliver directly, some of them still use the liquor distribution branch. They won’t be able to sell products,” said Smith.

The BCRFA president says they’re working to find a solution with the BCGEU and the B.C government, as this will have big ramifications on the industry.

“We don’t want to be a part of this dispute. Our industry is unfortunately caught in a dispute that we shouldn’t be involved in,” said Tostenson.

Tostenson says buying BC wine and beer directly from producers won’t fill the gap left by the halted deliveries.

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