Nfld. & Labrador

Restaurants Canada gives NLC a failing grade

A national group says the restaurant and bar owners it represents are giving the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation a failing grade — a move that surprises NLC's president.

NLC head says F grade 'surprising'

NLC President Steve Winter says he's surprised by Restaurants Canada's failing grade (file photo). (CBC )

A national group says the restaurant and bar owners it represents are giving the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation a failing grade — a move that surprises NLC's president.

Luc Erjavec, Atlantic vice president of Restaurants Canada, said the group surveyed members across the country to put together Raise the Bar — a report card looking at the rules regulating alcohol at restaurants and bars

It gets really, really hard for us to put a competitively-priced product on the counter.- Luc Erjavec

Erjavec said local bar and restaurant owners are frustrated with what they see as the NLC's high prices and poor product selection.

"I think all of your listeners would really be shocked to learn that we pay the same for our alcohol as you would walking into a retail store," Erjavec told the St. John's Morning Show

"Up until a few years ago, we actually paid 12 per cent more. And so that makes it really tough when you have to put wages. light, heat, rent onto the cost of it," he said.

"It gets really, really hard for us to put a competitively-priced product on the counter."

He said they also think the liquor corporation is heavy-handed with excessive rules and regulations.

"What we're seeing in Newfoundland and Labrador over the last year or two, the inspectors have … started to wear flak jackets, and uniforms and utility belts walking into a restaurant to inspect them. And what type of message does that send to the industry? 'Oh, you guys are bad. We have to police you. You're evil.' I mean that's not a working relationship."

Erjevac said he hopes the report card will help start a conversation between Restaurants Canada members and the NLC to improve their relationship.

"We work with monopolies in eight other provinces. Newfoundland is the only jurisdiction in Atlantic Canada where we don't have some sort of wholesale pricing," he said.

NLC surprised

In the meantime, NLC president Steve Winter said he's surprised that Restaurants Canada members in the province have given the NLC a failing grade.

Winter said some bar and restaurant owners will have complaints, but he thinks the corporation has a "pretty positive" relationship with most of them.

As for inspectors wearing flak jackets, he said inspections are usually done by appointment, but some enforcement operations can be risky.

"When they're doing operations, they do wear flak jackets, yes. As do the RNC, as do the RCMP. It's only in undercover situations where they do that and they protect themselves the same as the police force would," he said.

As for complaints that the NLC's prices and licence fees are too high, Winters said they're competitive with other jurisdictions.

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