'It’s a starting point': Windsor’s hospitality industry wants temporary liquor laws made permanent
WINDSOR, ONT. -- A move by the province to make alcohol takeout permanent is seen as just the first step by Windsor’s hospitality industry to modernizing liquor laws.
Earlier this week, the Ford government announced its intention to make permanent an emergency order made in March allowing wine, beer and spirits to be sold alongside takeout orders — meant to help struggling bars and restaurants reach customers encouraged to stay home to stop the chain of COVID-19 spread.
“It provided people more options to enjoy food and drink,” said Adriano Ciotoli, co-owner of WindsorEats.
Ciotoli, who's hospitality and events group has organized outdoor food halls and alcohol drink delivery programs due to the pandemic, sees the move by the province as an encouraging sign to potentially further relaxed liquor regulations.
“It’s a starting point but, we would like to see the province actually go in and look and have consultations with the industry to actually see what else can be done,” said Ciotoli.
The relaxed rules have proved to be a boon for some local establishments, including the Walkerville Brewery.
“I hope none of these are just temporary measures,” said Mike Brkovich, co-owner of the beer-maker.
Pandemic liquor laws have allowed direct-to-customer delivery and the business model has seen sales so strong, they’ve more than covered lost bar-front sales according to Brkovich.
“The key one for us has been home delivery because it really has increased our sales in that area and just like the restaurants with the ability to deliver alcohol to your home, I think it really is a game-changer for most of us,” said Brkovich.
Brkovich also points to cider sales as a new stream of revenue over the past several months he hopes to see maintained by Ontario’s liquor laws post-pandemic.
“I think most of these temporary changes [have] helped us significantly,” said Brkovich. “The ability to sell our cider from our retail beer outlet and cider to your home as well — there was a five acre rule as far as an orchard was concerned — that has really helped us.”
According to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, the provision allowing bars and restaurants to sell alcohol with takeout orders was set to expire on Dec. 31.
It’s just one of several measures implemented during the pandemic that have been well received by a hospitality sector hard-hit by the challenges of the pandemic.
The pandemic has forced the industry to find new ways to reach customers and Ciotoli hopes the province’s liquor laws can keep up.
“We’ve always had conversations about the liquor laws in Ontario so, it doesn’t matter what brought it about — that fact is change has happened,” said Ciotoli.