British Columbia

B.C. restaurant industry calls out distribution branch for late liquor deliveries

B.C.'s restaurants say they end up waiting weeks for liquor orders to be delivered by the province's Liquor Distribution Branch.

‘It's a colossal miss by the Liquor Distribution Branch,’ says restaurant advocate

Restaurants in Vancouver say it can take anywhere from two to eight weeks to get their special liquor orders delivered. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

B.C.'s restaurant industry is calling out the province's Liquor Distribution Branch for late deliveries that leave businesses unable to serve customers.

Ian Tostenson, president of the B.C. Restaurant and Food Services Association, says it can be up to two months from when an order is placed with the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch to when the order is finally delivered.

"The restaurants can get fresh seafood from Japan in about 48 hours. In some cases it takes four to five to six weeks to get these specialty [liquor] products to restaurants in British Columbia," he said.

"It's a colossal miss by the Liquor Distribution Branch. It's one that's been going on for two or three years."

The delays are challenging for restaurants with an extensive wine list like Vancouver's Provence Marinaside.

"It makes it hard for anticipating how much product we're going to be going through," said wine director Josh Carlson.

"I don't want to run out of a product because I don't want the guests to try to order something and realize that it's not there."

Carlson says he has good relationships with staff at the Liquor Distribution Branch, but wishes orders were filled more smoothly.

"I was just speaking with an agent in Oregon and their delivery time is within two days. I don't understand why we can't do that here."

LDB warehouse causing delays

In British Columbia, restaurants have to buy all their alcohol from the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch.

Specialty import products that aren't regularly stocked on B.C. Liquor Store shelves have to be ordered from third-party suppliers. When a restaurant orders a specialty product through the distribution branch, the product goes from the third-party to a BCLDB warehouse before finally being shipped to the restaurant.

The Ministry of the Attorney General said in a statement that "due to operational challenges with one of its major warehouse partners, the Liquor Distribution Branch's (LDB) warehouses in Vancouver, Delta and Kamloops are experiencing delays in receiving import product."

The ministry added that the distribution branch was able to clear its backlog over the weekend and expects its warehouse to be back on track this week.

Tostenson believes cutting out the middleman would eliminate delays.

"Take these smaller volumes of product and let them go direct from this private warehouse, direct to the restaurants."

It was one of the recommendations to the province in a June 2018 report on liquor policy reforms.

In its statement, the government says it's commissioning an independent review of liquor distribution centres to improve the system and will hire an outside consultant later this spring.