New Brunswick’s bar and restaurant owners argue alcohol pricing is hurting their businesses and they are trying to turn the matter into a political issue before the September election.
A group of bar and restaurant owners met with Liberal Leader Brian Gallant in Moncton on Thursday and informed him of their demands to have NB Liquor offer them wholesale prices as a way to reduce their alcohol costs.
Every pint of beer or glass of wine poured in a bar or restaurant costs the business the same as it costs a person to buy the same bottle in a liquor store.
Greg Belyea, owner of The Barrel’s Head Gastropub and Wine Bar in Quispamsis, was one of the bar owners who met with Gallant on Thursday.
He said people in the bar and restaurant industry are facing some serious challenges and the price of alcohol is one.
"We're at the max, we can't pass that [cost of alcohol] on to customers anymore. They already can't afford it and we can't afford to lose business by pricing ourselves right out of the market," he said.
The owners say they have brought this issue up with the Progressive Conservative government for years and Thursday’s meeting was to ensure the Liberals were also aware of their request.
New Brunswick is the only Maritime province that does not offer wholesale rates on alcohol for restaurants and bars.
The Prince Edward Island government offers bars and restaurants 10 per cent off sprints and beer and 13 per cent off wine.
Meanwhile, the Nova Scotia government offers 10 per cent off spirits and wine, but it does not have a wholesale discount for beer.
New Brunswick operators would like to see a 15 per cent discount but Belyea said any amount would help businesses throughout the province.
He said any money saved through a wholesale discount could then be reinvested in salaries or improving their buildings.
"That's money that we just don't have right now. We can also do some specials when it comes to beer pricing and happy-hour pricing," he said.
“It gives us a little leeway to play with the price of liquor that isn’t there now.”
The Liberals did not make any commitments to the group, but Belyea said the Liberals did ask for a copy of the group's report.
Marcelle Saulnier, a spokesperson for NB Liquor, said the Crown corporation is aware of the owners’ demands for wholesale prices.
“We would like to work with them to improve things on both ends,” Saulnier said.
“As far as when a plan is coming into play it's a bit too early to say now but we are working on a project.”
And while NB Liquor can't give an exact date on when bars and restaurants may receive some financial relief, Saulnier said there is hope a solution can be reached before the Sept. 22 provincial election.