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Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Ontario wants to let restaurants sell alcohol for takeout permanently

In a bid to help the hard-hit hospitality industry recover from COVID-19 (or at least stay afloat during this second wave and ensuing financial fallout), Ontario's provincial government is "exploring options" to permanently allow the sale of booze with takeout and delivery orders.

Restaurants and bars won permission to include alcohol with food for takeout in late March, when the province announced what it called "temporary measures to support bars, restaurants and alcohol retailers during the COVID-19 situation."

Through amendments made to Regulation 719, also known as Ontario's Liquor License Act, licensed establishments could sell beer, wine and even spirits to patrons off-site, and for lower minimum price requirements than previously stipulated.

Many bars and restaurants have been surviving off of alcohol takeout and delivery ever since.

Here's the thing, though: These permissions will only be in effect until Jan. 1, 2021 when the amended parts of Regulation 719 are set to be revoked.

Whether we're over the second wave of COVID-19 by then or not, it's become clear to the province that restaurants and bars will need additional support for some time.

A new piece of legislation called the Main Street Recovery Act seeks to address some of the challenges facing the hospitality industry with modernized rules that Ontario's government hopes will allow for more innovation.

Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction, Prabmeet Sarkaria, introduced the act on Wednesday, noting in a release that his proposed legislation would "remove hurdles faced by small businesses and allow them to pursue new opportunities — while maintaining or enhancing protections for public health, safety and the environment."

If passed, the act will result in a host of relief measures for bars and restaurants in Ontario, including a one-time grant of up to $1,000 for "eligible main street small businesses" and a new "Small Business COVID-19 Recovery Network."

The plan also states that the government will "commit to exploring options to permanently allow licensed restaurants and bars to include alcohol with food as part of a takeout or delivery order before the existing regulation expires."

While unsurprising, given the provincial government's affinity for loosening booze regulations, the move would definitely change how Ontario residents get their liquor moving forward. Maybe that's a good thing.

"Ontario's small businesses were hit hard by COVID-19, but they were the among the first to step up and demonstrate the best of the Ontario Spirit by bringing forward their innovative ideas and solutions in our time of need," said Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli in a release about the proposed measures.

"Building on the steps we took at the outset of the pandemic to provide urgent economic relief to struggling small businesses, Ontario's Main Street Recovery Plan will help get more and more small businesses back on their feet as we continue down the path to economic recovery together."

by Lauren O'Neil via blogTO

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