Saskatchewan staggers on retail sales of booze, group says

A coalition of groups involved in the hospitality industry are calling for a revamp of Saskatchewan's rules when it comes to the retail sale of alcohol, complaining that existing laws are unfair and confusing.

Different prices for different retail outlets an issue

Denny Joyal has signed a petition seeking changes to Saskatchewan's rules when it comes to how wine and spirits are sold at the retail level. (CBC)

A coalition of groups involved in the hospitality industry are calling for a revamp of Saskatchewan's rules when it comes to the retail sale of alcohol, complaining that existing laws are unfair and confusing.

The Saskatchewan Hotels and Hospitality Association (SHHA), Restaurants Canada and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) launched a petition Friday calling for fairness in pricing, selection and regulation for liquor retailing.

Denny Joyal, who runs the Waterfront Bar in Regina Beach and the Lumsden Hotel off-sale, was one of the first to sign it.

"What I see is a lot of confusion from customers. People come in, they don't understand," Joyal said. "People don't have the general knowledge of why there's a different pricing structure, why it costs more for a bottle of wine at an off-sale then it does versus a private franchise versus at the Sobey's."

The provincial government has been studying liquor laws and holding consultations on the topic. It's expected to announce a plan for retailing liquor in the next few weeks.

Dwayne Marling, a vice-president of Restaurants Canada (for Manitoba and Saskatchewan), said players in the industry want a system that is fair to all.

"What we're looking for is a level playing field on pricing, so that whether you're a restaurant, whether you're a hotel, whether you're an off-sale, that you're working from level pricing," Marling said.

One of the sore points among those in the industry is the requirement for retailers to purchase alcohol from the government, but the prices vary considerably for different retailers. Some sellers get their product with no discount, paying a full retail price. Others enjoy discounts of up to 16 per cent, they said.

"Right now off-sales have some advantages and rural franchises have other advantages and in the end we all lose because the system is unfair," Joyal said. "There's lots of room in the market for us to compete and customers will come out ahead when we're all free to provide the best combination of price, selection and service."

With files from CBC's Adam Hunter

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