LCBO and Beer Store pause delivery with SkipTheDishes after uproar from Toronto restaurants
A widely-criticized alcohol delivery program that encouraged people in Toronto to order booze from the LCBO and Beer Store using SkipTheDishes has come to an abrupt end thanks to the provincial government's intervention.
Announced last week, the partnerships between the food delivery app and the dedicated alcohol distributors were met with fierce backlash.
Beleaguered local bar and restaurant owners, many of whom have been relying on selling wine, spirits and beer to survive yet another forced shutdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic, argued that there was no way for them to compete in terms of pricing.
Is this not just a “Cash grab”, stealing from struggling restaurants who were already selling their LCBO stock to survive?— Lisa Particelli (@lisaparticelli) December 7, 2020
SkipTheDishes and LCBO Announce Partnership to Deliver Beverage Alcohol Throughout Toronto. https://t.co/kTwBVQOPOd
As one outraged Ontarian explained in a lengthy Facebook post, restaurant customers "don't typically purchase wines that are sold through the LCBO because not many people will pay a restaurant's price (usually well over 100 per cent markup) for an LCBO wine when they can just go to the LCBO and get it for cheaper."
"Not only does the LCBO control the distribution of alcohol but they also set the baseline prices... the LCBO is now partnered with SkipTheDishes and not only set the wholesale pricing for wines that are sold on their shelves, but don't have any requirements to include a food purchase with any sale."
"Restaurants are getting killed. The ones who spent some money converting themselves into online retailers for alcohol are now about to be killed all over again because of this LCBO x SkipTheDishes collaboration," continued Patrick Kahtouni.
"Please please please support small businesses. Not only do restaurants/bottle shops/online wine shops support the small business owners who operate them, they also support dozens of other small businesses that provide services, products (the agencies that import the wines are also almost entirely small businesses), graphic design, packaging, accounting, etc."
From the start of pandemic LCBO has provided zero relief to their most valuable customers, licensees & importers. No wholesale pricing & forcing restaurants to sell food w. alcohol to go. Why are we always at a competitive disadvantage. It's supposed to be a fair playing field.— Volo (@barvolo) December 4, 2020
The Beer Store, a privately-owned chain of retail stores owned by multi-national corporations under contract with the provincial government, was quick to pull out of the deal, telling customers on Friday that "our SkipTheDishes offering is currently paused."
The LCBO, a Crown Corporation, followed suit on Sunday after being asked to do so by Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Finance Rod Phillips.
"Following direction from the Ontario Government, effective end of day today, LCBO's partnership with SkiptheDishes is paused until further notice," wrote the alcohol purveyor in a statement issued Sunday.
"We are proud to continue offering a safe in-store shopping experience and our expanded Same-Day Pickup option and will continue to look for new ways to increase choice and convenience for our customers."
Our restaurants are counting on us more than ever. We’ve already stepped up to enable them to sell alcohol via takeout and delivery.— Doug Ford (@fordnation) December 7, 2020
Today, @RodPhillips01 and I asked the LCBO to pause their delivery plans with @SkipTheDishes. #SupportLocal https://t.co/lS97IsBAxo pic.twitter.com/xxmZFoT495
"Restaurants have been hit hard by COVID, so we are supporting them, including by allowing them to sell alcohol with take-out and delivery," said Phillips in a statement.
"Restaurants still need our support, so Premier Ford and I asked LCBO to pause their recently announced delivery plans with Skip the Dishes."
Toronto Mayor John Tory, who had earlier called the SkipTheDishes partnership "ill-timed," praised the move, stating on Twitter that Ford and Phillips "got this one right."
"Modernized liquor laws are the way to go but not right now with restaurants locked down," wrote Tory. "Good call."
Never be afraid to use your (collective) voice. One fight down in Ontario, but more to go, including a reform on the pricing strategy for restaurants & bars @LCBO #skipthedishes #skipthelcbo #lcbo #onpoli pic.twitter.com/G0PvEceWZf— Doug Radkey (@KRGhospitality) December 6, 2020
Small business owners similarly applauded the decision to stop SkipTheDishes from delivering booze, but stressed that more must be done to help save the struggling industry.
"Thank you everyone! One small step forward to protect our industry. Next, we need to level the playing field. Wholesale pricing for bars and restaurants from LCBO to fairly compete. Cheaper products for the consumer, and economic lifeline for restaurants struggling to survive " wrote Bar Volo on Twitter.
"SkipTheDishes respects the decision of the Ontario Government and remains focused on supporting our restaurant partners, working with them to provide a safe way to sell alcohol via takeout and delivery while allowing our customers to practice social distancing," said the food delivery app in a statement.
LCBO products had previously been available on the food delivery app Foodora, which ceased operations in Canada this spring.
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