Nfld. & Labrador

Pandemic prohibition: N.L. urged to allow alcohol with restaurant takeout

Newfoundland and Labrador is the last province prohibiting restaurants from selling alcohol with takeout and delivery, according to an industry association.

Local restaurants not allowed to sell booze with delivery during pandemic

Beer with your pizza? The House of Assembly would be required to sit and change laws to allow restaurants in Newfoundland and Labrador to sell alcohol with takeout and delivery. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province in the country prohibiting restaurants from selling alcohol with takeout and delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Restaurants Canada, an organization that represents companies in the foodservice industry. 

Todd Perrin, owner of Mallard Cottage and Waterwest Kitchen and Meats, has been lobbying the provincial government to allow the sales during the pandemic. 

"It's money that's tied up in our businesses," he said. "It's just deadweight."

Restaurants cannot open their dining rooms under N.L.'s public health emergency orders, although they are allowed to sell meals for delivery or pickup. 

Adding alcohol to the order, though, is forbidden, which has been a challenge to restaurants that typically rely on wine, beer and spirits sales to boost revenues. 

Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province in the country not allowing alcohol sales with takeout orders. (-)

Perrin told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show sales of beer and wine will give restaurants another revenue stream — and a better shot at survival.

"Instead of bringing in 30 per cent of what you'd normally bring into revenue, you're bringing in 40 per cent of what you normally bring in by opening up this opportunity," he said.

Law needs to change

To allow sales, however, the province would have to open the House of Assembly and change legislation.

Perrin said allowing sales would help struggling restaurants, especially since the province has few financial incentives to help business.

Every province has come on board as a result of this crisis, and we would really like to see Newfoundland and Labrador follow suit.- Luc Erjavec

Dining rooms in restaurants across the province have been empty for 3½ weeks. 

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, chief medical officer of health, first ordered restaurants to operate at 50 per cent capacity on March 18. On March 23, she ordered dining rooms to close entirely.

The restaurant industry in the province says it has already shed 10,000 jobs since the pandemic.

Todd Perrin, owner of Mallard Cottage and Waterwest Kitchen, says alcohol sales would help restaurants by opening another revenue stream. (Credit: mallardcottage.ca)

Luc Erjavec, vice-president of Restaurants Canada, is urging the provincial government to do everything it can to help as the coronavirus pandemic continues. He said some restaurants have thousands of dollars of inventory in stock.

"Every province has come on board as a result of this crisis, and we would really like to see Newfoundland and Labrador follow suit," he said

"It's an important way to put a little bit of cash into the pockets of restaurateurs, allow them maybe to hire a few more people, serve their customers and even give government a little bit of revenue," said Erjavec.

Province supportive, but no action

Erjavec said the province intended to change the legislation to allow sales when MHAs sat three weeks ago, but the change didn't happen.

He said he spoke with Finance Minister Tom Osborne and other MHAs, who he said are supportive of the sales.

Premier Dwight Ball also supported the idea at Monday's daily COVID-19 briefing, but said the focus of the last session of the House was the province's financial situation.

"The priority of the first session was to get us in a situation where we could actually borrow to keep the services being paid for within our province," said Ball.

Luc Erjavec, the vice-president of the Atlantic division of Restaurants Canada, says the response from his members has been "very, very positive" about reducing straws (CBC)

Meanwhile, Perrin wonders if an order-in-council — a cabinet order — would do the trick. 

"They can make our lives easier through regulatory means, and it just takes a strike of a pen," said Perrin.

Still, Erjavec said the outlook for many restaurants is dire.

He said in a member survey last week, 10 per cent of participating restaurants reported they have already closed permanently and almost 20 per cent said they can only last a few more weeks. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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