Torontonians can now purchase alcohol as part of their takeout or delivery food order. But what does that actually entail?
Following a petition and a call for some sense of relief in what is otherwise a grim and uncertain time for Ontario’s hospitality sector during the COVID-19 pandemic, last week the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) announced that Toronto’s restaurants and bars are now permitted to sell alcohol with food takeout and delivery orders. The temporary adjustment is expected to last until December 31.
“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 in a statement.
“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.”
This unprecedented move has effectively placed Ontario’s alcohol industry into uncharted waters. But before we get too excited, we need to sort out exactly what it means for both Toronto businesses and the drink-loving public.
What drinks are allowed?
Beer, wine, and liquor are all allowed for sale as long as they are part of a food order. Additionally, any businesses offering alcohol will be allowed to mark up the price to their specifications and charge a delivery fee for the convenience of having it sent right to your home.
While this is potentially a big deal for pubs and restaurants, places that serve only drinks are out of luck. And while some have found a loophole by offering small snacks as a takeout option, others see it as not being worth the effort.
In a statement on Instagram, Kensington Market bar Thirsty & Miserable said that “it’s unlikely anyone wants to leave their house to buy a $2 single portion bag of chips and then pay bar prices for a can of beer you can source at the LCBO or have delivered to your doorstep from one of the amazing Ontario craft breweries now offering home delivery”.
Wait, what about cocktails?
Want to order a cocktail or mixed drink from your favourite spot? The solution to that is a bit of a monkey’s paw situation in that while cocktails are technically allowed, they won’t be presented in a way you’d expect.
Since the AGCO is being very specific that only sealed, unopened bottles are allowed to be sold, cocktails will have to be delivered as deconstructed versions of themselves. So if you wanted a mojito, you would be sent separate sealed bottles of rum, lime juice, and soda water with sugar and mint on the side to mix yourself.
One bar already testing out the method of deconstructed cocktails is Dundas West hotspot Project Gigglewater, which took to Instagram to advertise its batched cocktail kits with sealed bottles of liquor ready for delivery – with a 75-cent purchase of chips. The quarantine-themed cocktail kits, which start at around $60 and contain between six and eight servings, include the “Toilet Paper Greens” with Bombay Sapphire, lime, cucumber and mint, and the “Keep Calm & Quarantine” with Johnnie Walker Black, lemon, honey, ginger and lapsang souchong.
App delivery? Maybe not yet
Hogtown Vegan co-owner Jill Krasnicki was looking forward to additional money coming in with the option for alcohol delivery and immediately put tallboy cans of beer on their delivery app menu. But, like many other business owners hoping to expand their offerings, she was soon disappointed.
“We read the announcement and got really excited about delivering alcohol with UberEats so we immediately started posting that we carry beer, but then they (UberEats) called us and said ‘Please take that down, we’re not ready yet’.”
At this time, food delivery services like UberEats, DoorDash and Foodora have held off on alcohol delivery from restaurants while their legal teams figure out some of the basic logistics, like acquiring Smart Serve training for staff and – perhaps their biggest obstacle – figuring out ID and sobriety checks in a time when more people are opting for contactless delivery.
“As you can understand, ID/sobriety checks are at odds with contactless delivery, which might become mandated as states pursue more extreme measures to contain the virus,” a representative from Uber wrote.
“In some provinces, we are working with authorities to explore the removal of the signature requirement when alcohol is delivered. However, please note that the situation is fluid and likely subject to change over the coming days and weeks.”
Even Foodora, who have a unique agreement to deliver alcohol, are staying in their own lane for the time being. “We are currently only fulfilling alcohol deliveries on our platform from established breweries and alcohol stores such as the LCBO,” a Foodora rep said in an email to NOW. “We cannot speak to other alcohol delivery processes for restaurants.”
Skip The Dishes, however, says that they are testing out their alcohol delivery program with the St. Louis Bar & Grill and Earls chains, with more options on the way.
“During this time where social distancing is extremely important and Canadians are being urged to stay home, we’re proud to now offer Skip’s customers the ability to add alcohol to food orders from their favourite local restaurants,” says Howard Migdal, Skip’s Canadian managing director.
Until the apps catch up, if you’d like to support your local restaurant by purchasing alcohol along with your food, takeout or in-house delivery is the best option for the time being.