A deal with SkipTheDishes to provide delivery from the LCBO is on pause.
The move to suspend the exclusive partnership comes after criticism that LCBO delivery via the food app was undercutting local bars and restaurants that rely on selling alcohol during the lockdown.
SkipTheDishes and LCBO announced the deal last Friday (December 4) and cancelled it two days later.
“Following direction from the Ontario government, effective end of day today, LCBO’s partnership with SkipTheDishes is paused until further notice,” the LCBO wrote in a short statement. “We are proud to continue offering a safe in-store shopping experience and our expanded same-day pickup option and will continue to look for new ways to increase choice and convenience for our customers.”
The Ontario-owned crown corporation had previously offered delivery through Foodora, but that app abruptly and controversially pulled out of Canada in April.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said on the weekend that “the initiative with SkipTheDishes, while it replaces an older deal, is maybe ill-timed.”
(The Beer Store had already paused a deal with SkipTheDishes following a similar backlash.)
“‘Ill-timed’ are you fucking KIDDING ME??” tweeted Jen Agg, owner of Bar Vendetta, Grey Gardens and other restaurants in Toronto. “It is timed to UNDERCUT restaurants that are already bleeding out. It is timed to benefit companies that DONT NEED ANY HELP! It is timed to devastate restaurants and they damn well knew all of this.”
Ontario has been allowing bars and restaurants to sell alcohol for takeout and delivery since March and is aiming to make the change permanent. With many spots struggling, the ability to sell beer, wine and cocktail kits has been a rare lifeline, especially as takeout and delivery are once again the only options while Toronto is in lockdown.
Many bars have opened makeshift beer and wine shops, while independent breweries have expanded delivery programs. (In this week’s cover story, we suggested getting your alcohol from bars, restaurants and breweries instead of the LCBO as one way to support local businesses.)
Bars and restaurants, however, can’t buy or sell alcohol for the same lower wholesale prices as the LCBO. Independent businesses argue they are competing with the province for sales, but not on a fair playing field.
Many bars and restaurants posted on social media over the weekend, urging people to order directly from bars and restaurants instead of the LCBO.
In cancelling the deal, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said, “Our restaurants are counting on us more than ever. We’ve already stepped up to enable them to sell alcohol via takeout and delivery. Today, Minister [of Finance Rod] Phillips and I asked the LCBO to pause their delivery plans with SkipTheDishes.”
John Tory tweeted that the two politicians had “got this one right.”
With the SkipTheDishes deal cancelled, some bars and restaurants are shifting gears to ask the province to remove mark-ups and sell alcohol to bars at wholesale pricing.
“Next, we need to level the playing field,” wrote Bar Volo on Instagram. “Wholesale pricing for bars and restaurants from LCBO to fairly compete. Cheaper products for the consumer and an economic lifeline for restaurants struggling to survive. Support your local bar, restaurant, importer, brewery, winery, distillery & cider producer.”