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LCBO scraps plan to open 5 stores to bar and restaurant owners for one day

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Restaurant and bar owners are becoming “increasingly concerned” about the impact of the LCBO strike on their businesses as they struggle to secure inventory, the president and CEO of Restaurants Canada says.

On Monday, the LCBO confirmed that it had scrapped a plan to temporarily reopen five stores to allow bar and restaurant owners to buy alcohol amid the ongoing strike after the Crown corporation said the union threatened to picket at these locations.

In a news release issued Monday, the LCBO said in-store shopping will no longer be offered to wholesale customers at those stores.

“We appreciate the unique considerations of Ontario’s bars and restaurants during OPSEU’s strike. That’s why we planned to implement a temporary solution to service them with alternative shopping options during this challenging time, including opening five stores in key locations for in-store shopping on July 10,” the statement read.

“In light of OPSEU threats to picket these locations, we have made the decision to offer an alternative online experience for smaller orders. Details will be shared directly with our licensees.”

But Kelly Higginson, the president and CEO of Restaurants Canada, said the contingency plans that have been laid out to her members are “not working.”

“We are having trouble getting our hands on the basic products that we need to operate our businesses,” she told CP24 on Tuesday.

“We are hearing from the membership that they are frustrated… We are five days into the strike and they are growing increasingly concerned about the impact this is going to have on their businesses.”

She said operators who are trying to order through the LCBO’s website are finding many items listed as “unavailable” or “out of stock.”

“We are stuck in the middle of the LCBO workers and the government and we need to be prioritized,” Higginson said.

More than 9,000 LCBO employees represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) walked off the job last Friday, closing 669 LBCO locations across the province.

While stores remain closed, mobile orders through the LCBO’s website and app are continuing, allowing for free home delivery anywhere in Ontario for the duration of the strike.

On Tuesday morning, workers could be seen picketing at an LCBO warehouse in Toronto, keeping some drivers waiting up to 30 minutes at a time, a situation which has created a backlog in deliveries.

The LCBO has also noted that alcohol will remain available at 2,300 private retail points of sale across the province, including LCBO Convenience Outlets, licensed grocery stores, The Beer Store, and winery, brewery, cidery, and distillery outlets.

On Monday, the Ford government launched a new, searchable map pointing Ontarians to locations where alcohol is still being sold in the province during the strike.

OPSEU slammed the province for launching the map, suggesting that the premier is attempting to undermine workers.

“LCBO workers fully support the mom-and-pop stores and craft brewers, wineries and distilleries and we also encourage folks to go to them. But that’s not what Ford is doing,” Colleen MacLeod, the chair of OPSEU/SEFPO’s liquor board employees division, said in a written statement.

“He is undermining LCBO workers and this strike to hand the alcohol market over to big box store, grocery, and convenience chain CEOs so that alcohol sales can be monopolized by them.”

OPSEU has said the primary point of contention at the bargaining table is the Ford government’s expansion of alcohol sales in the province, which will see beer, wine, and ready-to-drink beverages available in some convenience stores at the end of the summer.

“In fact, mom-and-pop stores and small producers will be worse off in Doug Ford’s Ontario – his business model is going to crush them, not help them,” MacLeod added. 

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