The proposed Main Street Recovery Act would let bars and restaurants continue to sell alcohol with food orders beyond 2020
Since March, Ontario has allowed restaurants and bars to offer alcohol for takeout and delivery with food orders.
The new rule was a temporary measure scheduled to last until the end of 2020, but now the provincial government is exploring ways to make it permanent.
On Wednesday (October 7), Prabmeet Sarkaria, Ontario’s Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction, announced the Main Street Recovery Plan, which will include the proposed Main Street Recovery Act.
According to a news release, the proposed legislation “would support small businesses and modernize rules to allow them to innovate and meet the challenges of today” while “remov[ing] hurdles faced by small businesses and allow them to pursue new opportunities – while maintaining or enhancing protections for public health, safety and the environment.”
One of the proposed changes includes a “committment to exploring options” to make takeout and delivery alcohol permanent before the regulation expires.
That allowance has been a rare bright spot for restaurants, which have been struggling during COVID-19. Some bars have turned into makeshift bottle shops, while the options for bottles of wine for consumers have expanded well beyond what’s offered at the LCBO. Some businesses, like Grape Crush Wines and its brick-and-mortar outpost Juice Box wine bar (formerly SoSo Food Lounge) have even staked their sales model on it.
This is rare good news for the restaurant sector, but it’s still a bleak time for spots that are still waiting to hear if they’ll have to close again as COVID cases rise.
The Main Street Recovery Plan includes other relief measures, including a one-time grant of up to $1,000 for PPE for retail businesses, and Digital Main Street Squads to help businesses pivot online.
Toronto Mayor John Tory also said recently that the federal government will soon launch an aid program for the endangered restaurant sector.
According to industry group Restaurants Canada, an estimated 40 per cent of independent restaurants are at risk of closing by March 2021. And roughly 10 per cent of establishments closed for good during the first six months of the pandemic.