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Looking to enhance customer service and increase profitability, Canadian restaurants have long asked for the ability to offer customers wine and beer with their take-away and delivery orders. That wish was granted when numerous provincial governments temporarily changed liquor laws to help bars and restaurants stay afloat and keep staff employed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead of letting their pricey liquor inventories languish during the enforced lockdown, licensed venues offering takeout and delivery of food can sell bottles to increase revenues and free up cash flow.

Restaurateurs terrified of losing their livelihoods are turning to takeout, going to work despite the risks

These new regulations were introduced in British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Quebec, with specific ordinances varying between jurisdictions. For instance, a purchase of food isn’t mandatory in Alberta, while Nova Scotia requires that the alcohol cost isn’t more than three times the value of the food ordered.

Sales are typically restricted to sealed, unopened bottles of beer, wine and spirits as part of a food order for takeout or delivery to a residential address. Sobriety and identification checks are required upon delivery.

A quick scan of social media accounts suggests consumers and restaurants have been quick to embrace the opportunity. British Columbia’s restaurant trade has created an invaluable resource, breakingbreadnow.com, to share what various operations are offering to consumers at this time. Savvy wine lovers see this as a chance to try – or acquire for their cellar – rare bottles that are only usually sold to restaurants.

Some restaurants are looking to offer their clientele a taste of their full-service experience by preparing set menus with suggested wine pairings to match. Others are staying just inside the spirit of the law by advertising selections from their craft beer and wine lists with the addition of a bag of potato chips.

Pricing regulations vary. Some provinces require that the pricing be consistent with the cost on the wine list. Other regions leave it to discretion of the restaurant, which has encouraged some to institute “happy hour” prices for home delivery accounts.

In any instance, you’re paying a premium over the cost of purchasing at a liquor store for the convenience and service. There are other options available to consumers shopping for alcohol; this just adds more choice and, perhaps most importantly, the chance to support businesses that are seriously struggling to make ends meet in these uncertain times.

E-mail your wine and spirits questions to The Globe. Look for answers to select questions to appear in the Good Taste newsletter and on The Globe and Mail website.

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