New legislation introduced Tuesday means Manitoba restaurants will be able to add beer, wine, cider and coolers to their takeout and delivery menus in the near future, a move restaurant industry groups hope will satisfy their thirst for new revenue.
But don’t expect to pay liquor store rates for a bottle of wine with your entree — diners will still pay menu prices for alcohol picked up or delivered from restaurants, Crown Services Minister Jeff Wharton said Tuesday.
Manitoba Restaurant & Food Services Association executive director Shaun Jeffrey acknowledged that alcohol deliveries are already available to Manitobans from liquor stores, but sees restaurant alcohol deliveries as a matter of convenience, just like food deliveries.
"It’s a convenience feature, you don’t have to go and search for the product," he said.
"As a restaurant being able to send this product to its customers, we’re able to pair the proper product to it. You’ll be able to buy the product one-off, compared to buying a case of beer at the store, and you’ll be able to have that product all on one ordering platform."
The association has been lobbying for restaurant alcohol deliveries for about two and a half years, Jeffrey told the Free Press.
"Third-party delivery services like Skip the Dishes, Uber Eats or DoorDash can currently deliver alcohol from beer and wine stores, but weren’t able to deliver it from restaurants," he said.
"So we were just looking to (level) the playing field, so to speak, and make that available from restaurants."
Winnipeg restaurateur Scot McTaggart said he doesn’t necessarily expect to get "orders like crazy" for liquor deliveries from his Academy Road eatery Fusion Grill. Then again, he said, he never expected third-party food deliveries to become as popular as they have.
"But, you know, we’re a small, independent business, our margins are so small and narrow, any incremental increase in our sales, from whatever direction, and a new direction like this, is really going to help our business," he said.
McTaggart also sits on the board of industry group Restaurants Canada. He said the group recently calculated the average profit margin for a Canadian food service business at just 4.2 per cent.
"So anything that helps put us into the ‘plus’ column is great."
Restaurants Canada praised Manitoba’s new legislation in a Tuesday press release, saying its research "revealed a considerable thirst for selling alcohol through takeout or delivery."
McTaggart said the new legislation helps bring Manitoba restaurants up to speed with reality.
"If it’s a Tuesday night in February, and everyone’s hunkered down watching the Jets game, and they want to have a bottle of wine with their pizza or whatever it is, from me or from somebody else, why shouldn’t they be able to do that? It’s already being done," he said.
"Skip the Dishes is already delivering booze from the private wine stores, and Liquor Marts all deliver."
"Any incremental increase in our sales, from whatever direction, and a new direction like this, is really going to help our business." -Winnipeg restaurateur Scot McTaggart
McTaggart also said it might be time for Manitoba restaurants to renegotiate the fees they pay to delivery companies.
"The third-party delivery (services) out there, I mean, there’s going to have to be a deal made with them, because those pirates gouge a huge percentage for the service of delivering," he said.
Skip the Dishes declined to comment on the new legislation on Tuesday.
At the Manitoba legislature, Minister Wharton said any delivery drivers transporting liquor from restaurants will have to be at least 18 years old and pass a safe serving course. Identification checks will be mandatory, according to a provincial press release.
Wharton also told reporters that the new law could be a tool in the fight against drunk driving.
"(Certainly) it gives consumers more options to stay at home and entertain from home instead of having to go out to a restaurant," he said.
"Of course, designated drivers are always the best way to go, but I think the bottom line is I think it’s a responsible approach as well."
Bill 15 will also amend the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation Act to widen the categories of alcohol that can be distributed by private liquor distributors.
"This will allow third parties to dispense a wider variety of product to licensed vendors including private wine stores and hotel beer vendors by agreement with Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries," said the province’s press release.
With files from Jessica Botelho-Urbanski
Solomon Israel is a full-time reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press and for two years, the lead writer for Free Press cannabis news site, The Leaf News. He continues to provide coverage of the cannabis beat while covering business in the city and province.