Ontario allows restaurants to sell takeout liquor, wine and beer

Ontario allows restaurants to sell takeout liquor, wine and beer
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Few may feel like popping Champagne corks in the midst of a global pandemic, but the Progressive Conservative government has some rare good news for the struggling hospitality industry.

Ontario is liberalizing liquor licensing laws to allow restaurants to temporarily sell beer, wine, and spirits to go.

Tourism Culture and Heritage Minister Lisa MacLeod told 1,250 industry participants on an electronic town hall Thursday that “our government is helping bars, restaurants and pubs by allowing the sale and delivery of alcohol.”

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) said the measures are “to support Ontarians and businesses that have been significantly impacted by the spread of COVID-19.”

Effective immediately, licensed restaurants and bars in Ontario may sell alcohol with food takeout and delivery orders between the hours of 9 a.m. and 11 p.m.

“All active liquor licensees may immediately begin offering this service if they choose and there is no application process or fee required,” the AGCO said.

“Liquor may be sold for takeout or delivery through a third party, such as a food delivery service or ordering platform, provided they are acting on behalf of the licensee.”

Anyone involved in the delivery of alcohol must have successfully completed Smart Serve training, which can be done online.

“Everyone at the AGCO is concerned for the individuals, families, businesses and communities affected by this virus,” said Jean Major, the commission’s registrar and CEO.

As well, the 450 supermarkets that are already allowed to sell beer and wine — as well as breweries, wineries and distillers that remain open — will be allowed to start selling those products at 7 a.m. “in order to support early shopping programs for vulnerable people and to provide greater flexibility to retail stores.”

“The AGCO is also extending by three months the term of all active liquor, gaming and cannabis licences, authorizations and registrations during this extraordinary situation. In all cases, licensees do not need to do anything. Existing licences will simply remain in effect for the extended period, at no additional cost.”

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca first proposed the measures to help restaurateurs and other small business owners.

“I thank the government for being open to this suggestion,” Del Duca said after hearing MacLeod’s news.

“It will have a real economic impact for restaurants that are struggling to survive,” he said.

“We are all in this together and I will continue to work together with the government to deliver positive progress during this difficult time.”

LCBO stores remain open during the pandemic, but on reduced hours of 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. They will be closed Mondays for extensive cleaning to protect staff and customers.

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The Beer Store is also staying open, but only from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. The privately owned company is not accepting bottles returns for recycling at this time.

It’s expected that late next week the LCBO will again allow licensees to return any unopened bottles for cash refunds, but individuals hoping to bring back or exchange products will have to wait until the crisis has passed.
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