Restaurants want booze price break

Province gets C+ grade from restaurants for lack of wholesale pricing

Restaurants and pubs pay the same price for the wine and beer they serve as any other buyer at government stores. They're asking for a wholesale discount.

Restaurants and bars in B.C. want the provincial government to cut them a deal on the price they pay for wine, beer and spirits.

Right now, they’re required to buy liquor only from government stores and they must pay the same price as everyone else.

That’s prompted a C+ grade for B.c. on liquor policy in a new report from industry association Restaurants Canada, which concluded “Beautiful British Columbia is not so beautiful when it comes to liquor prices.”

B.C. Restaurant and Foodservice Association president Ian Tostenson said the hospitality industry is struggling in many areas in part because of the high prices it must pay for alcohol compared to other jurisdictions.

“The industry should be able to buy at some kind of wholesale price,” Tostenson said. “That’s one issue that should be corrected.”

Alberta offers wholesale discounts for its restaurants and bars, but there’s no wholesale pricing in most other provinces.

Tostenson is in Victoria this week to lobby the province to make that change and to reconsider why it charges a higher sales tax of 10 per cent on liquor, instead of the usual seven per cent PST.

“We have the highest taxation on wine in North America,” he said.

Restaurants would also like to be able to buy from private stores, which do get a wholesale discount and might be able to offer a price break to win restaurants’ business. Tostenson said restaurateurs would also like access to the wider selection available in private stores.

Coralee Oakes, the provincial minister responsible for liquor distribution, made no commitments but emphasized the liquor policy reforms already launched by the province.

“Many of the changes we’ve made so far – including the introduction of happy hours and allowing children to join their families for a meal in the pub – focus on supporting restaurants,” she said.

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