Liquor sales helping P.E.I. restaurants stay sustainable during pandemic
'We actually hired one person back on the weekend'
This past weekend was the first time some Island restaurants could sell liquor since the province shut down non-essential services due to COVID-19.
Brett Hogan, co-owner of the Hopyard in Charlottetown, said the recent changes brought sales of beer and cider to his restaurant over the weekend.
"Friday and Saturday we sold over 100 total," he said, adding that sales continued into Sunday.
"That's over 200 cans of beer or cider that went that normally wouldn't."
The P.E.I. Liquor Control Commission announced last Thursday that Island restaurants that have a Package Sales Licence can sell unopened liquor, including beer, wine and spirits, to customers that order a meal for take out.
Hogan said the change helped because the business paid for the products more than a month ago.
"It's cash flow at a time when it's definitely needed," he said.
The liquor sales were so good over the weekend Hogan said he is able to hire back a staff member he had previously laid off.
"They are going to be able to get probably 30 hours a week, which is a good start," he said.
Hogan said if sales grow any more he might be able to hire back about three or four employees in the next few weeks.
"It's a tough time for everyone and anything we can do to bring back staff, it is better for them, it is better for us — better for everyone."
Skip the line up?
Hogan said a lot of customers have said that it's convenient to order liquor with their meal, instead of having to go to the liquor store and wait in line.
"A lot of complaints about the lineups and, completely understandable, the P.E.I. Liquor Commission is doing their best to make sure everyone is safe when they are getting their alcohol," Hogan said.
"I heard stories that people are waiting 45 minutes to an hour."
Jeff Sinnott is an owner with Red Island Hospitality Group, which runs four restaurants including Hunter's Ale House and The Factory Downtown.
He said the people who bought liquor at those restaurants also voiced complaints about lineups.
"That was the number one comment I got. Yeah it costs a little bit more to buy it at a restaurant but it was well worth the half hour, the 45 minutes, one hour — whatever it took to wait in line," he said.
Sinnott said things were slow at first.
"I think people did a lot of stocking up on Thursday before they realized this was available," he said. "I'd say our sales were up 20 per cent based on added liquor sales."
Sinnott said he was surprised at the amount and variety of liquor that was sold.
"We sold wine, we sold hard liquor, we sold one bottle of beer, we sold 12 bottles of beer. It was just a little bit of everything," he said.
Sinnott said he had to lay off nearly 100 people, but like Hogan he hopes added liquor sales may allow him to hire some staff back.
"I'll have to wait and see how that goes," he said.
"It'll definitely add sales, it'll help us a lot. Any little bit of help right now is a big help."
Those wanting to order liquor from restaurants are allowed to purchase a maximum of two 750 millilitre bottles of wine or two bottles of spirits, or up to 12 cans of beer per order.
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