Toronto

Councillor wants to put the mimosa back in brunch, calls for 9 a.m. restaurant booze sales

Coun. Paula Fletcher wants city council to ask the province to move up the alcohol sale time on weekends, saying it would "provide greater flexibility for businesses and additional convenience for consumers."

Coun. Paula Fletcher wants council to ask province to move up alcohol sale time on weekends

Many brunch-goers in Toronto know the feeling: You're trying to order a boozy drink, only to be told it's still too early. Coun. Paula Fletcher wants to change that by calling on the province to move up the start time for alcohol sales on weekends. (Jen Li/@eatrundesign)

Many brunch-goers in Toronto know the feeling: You're trying to order a Caesar or Mimosa, only to be told it's still too early for booze alongside your eggs benny.

Coun. Paula Fletcher wants to change that — by calling on the province to move up the start time for alcohol sales on weekends.

"People that go out early in the morning on Sunday and Saturday aren't able to order a drink, whereas you can go to a [store] two blocks away and buy whatever you want," she told CBC Toronto. "Businesses and restaurants feel that's unfair."

In a motion heading to council on Feb. 26, she's asking her fellow councillors to ask Ontario's attorney general and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) to change the sales hours for alcohol in licensed restaurants to a 9:00 a.m. start on Saturdays and Sundays — instead of the current 11 a.m. timing.

Last December, she noted, the AGCO started allowing the LCBO, The Beer Store, and other winery retailers and authorized grocery stores to start selling liquor at 9 a.m. on Sundays — the permissible start time for the other days of the week.

Coun. Paula Fletcher wants city council to ask the attorney general and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario to change the time that restaurants can start serving alcohol on weekends to 9 a.m. from 11 a.m. (Turgut Yeter/CBC News)

A similar move for restaurants would mean "greater flexibility for businesses and additional convenience for consumers," Fletcher explained.

Donna Dooher, co-owner and executive chef at Mildred's Temple Kitchen — a typically-bustling brunch spot in Liberty Village, right around the corner from an LCBO — agrees a 9 a.m. start time is the way to go.

In part, she said it's because both Toronto residents and out-of-town guests have told her for "many years" that they want the option to indulge in early-morning libations.

"It's leveling out the playing field," she said. "It's also speaking to the changes that come about in lifestyles. Brunch isn't really something we had 25 years ago."

And while Zach Slootsky, owner of The Federal — a Brockton Village haunt with cocktails on its brunch menu — said the current serving time isn't something he hears complaints about, he's also open to a change.

"It would give us two extra hours of alcohol sales, but I'm not sure how many people would be buying alcohol at that time," he said, adding it's food, not booze, that generates the bulk of the restaurant's revenue.

Earlier sales not good for public health, CAMH expert says

Others caution the shift could lead to new problems.

"I think it's a crazy idea," said Norman Giesbrecht, a scientist emeritus with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health's Institute for Mental Health Policy Research. "Is anybody beating down the door to start drinking at a restaurant at 9 o'clock in the morning?"

Research shows extending sales of alcohol can increase the harms, he added, calling an earlier sales time something that goes against the tenets of public health.

In her motion, Fletcher wrote the serving hours have been changed temporarily for sporting events and other occasions "without any ensuing problems," but Giesbrecht questioned what evidence exists to prove there aren't downsides.

"I'm stuck on the lack of logic around this proposal ... I think she's proposing a solution to a problem that doesn't exist," he said.

However, Dooher stressed that, in general, brunch is a relaxed time.

"We don't see people coming in and looking to get intoxicated," she said.

"And certainly, restaurant operators are very mindful of that scenario — regardless of the time of service."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lauren Pelley

Senior Health & Medical Reporter

Lauren Pelley covers health and medical science for CBC News, including the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadian health policy, and the global spread of infectious diseases. She's based in Toronto. Contact her at: lauren.pelley@cbc.ca

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