British Columbia gets a C for liquor friendliness, according to Restaurants Canada

Credit to Author: David Carrigg| Date: Tue, 10 Sep 2019 13:00:58 +0000

Restaurants Canada has slammed B.C. government plans to increase the minimum wage of a liquor server to match the minimum wage for other workers by 2021.

In the industry association’s Raise the Bar report released Tuesday morning, aim was taken at the continuing increases in minimum wages for liquor servers that will grow from $12.70 an hour today to $15.20 an hour as of June 2021 (two years ago a liquor server earned a minimum $10.10 an hour). The general minimum wage is set to grow from $13.85 an hour today to $15.20 an hour by June 2021.

In a prepared statement, Restaurants Canada vice-president Mark von Schellwitz spoke highly of the B.C. government’s decision last year to consult with the food and liquor industry to overhaul liquor policy.

However, he said the increase in minimum wage for liquor servers, who generally also earn tips, will impact the ability of businesses to hire and pay back-of-house employees.

“Plans to phase out the liquor server wage could end up making operational realities more difficult for bars and restaurants in the future,” von Schellwitz said.

His argument was that paying more to liquor servers would undercut businesses ability to allocate money toward non-gratuity earning kitchen staff, who are typically harder to attract and retain.

“Reversing this decision would provide more flexibility for licensed establishments who are already struggling to compete for back-of-house employees amid rising labour shortages,” the Raise the Bar report stated.

The report, that comes out every two years, gave B.C. a C for how its liquor policies impacted food service and hospitality businesses.

Alberta, that has a legal drinking age of 18 compared to B.C.’s 19, was the highest-ranking province with a B, followed by Nova Scotia with a B minus.

According to the report, New Brunswick and Newfoundland & Labrador earned D minus.

Ontario and Manitoba shared B.C.’s C rating. B.C. also received a C when the report was last compiled two years ago.

The report highlighted other problems facing the food and liquor service industry in B.C., including the ban on restaurateurs and pub owners buying alcohol from anywhere except government liquor stores, and the requirement that businesses pay the same for alcohol as consumers pay at government liquor stores.

“Licensed establishments continue to experience problems ordering beverage alcohol products from the government’s liquor distribution branch,” the report stated. “Common complaints include frequent delays, deliveries that get unnecessarily routed through government-run warehouses or go missing entirely, and unreasonably long waits for non-stocked specialty products.”

The report also called on the provincial government to act on recommendations made in April, 2018, by Mark Hicken, who was appointed in late 2017 as the Ministry of Attorney General’s Liquor Policy Advisor to look at possible law and policy reforms to improve conditions for B.C.’s private liquor businesses.

One typical anecdote in the Hicken report from a restaurateur was “I can order fish from Japan on a Saturday and receive it on a Tuesday. I am unable to get a case of wine delivered from Richmond to downtown Vancouver in two weeks.”

Among other things, the report concluded the current problems with wholesale distribution and delivery were significant and that liquor licensees should not be restricted to only buying liquor from government retail stores.