Giuseppe Marchesini, the owner of a restaurant in Little Italy, is worried about how the alcohol-delivery partnership between the LCBO and Uber Eats will impact his bottomline.
He said it is unfair, given that his business and others have not fully recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“That’s another competitor and that’s a big competitor,” Marchesini told CP24 on Saturday evening.
“We feel that it’s not fair. They can be more mindful of supporting small businesses. We’re still struggling. Even if the guests are supporting us and we are full, we will need a little bit more attention on us.”
Marchesini is not the only restaurant owner who feels frustrated by the news. Ryan Mallough with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) said many of their members are voicing their disappointment with the partnership.
He said it will put businesses at a disadvantage.
“We’ve already heard from a few of our members in the hospitality industry, and it’s a bit of a tough blow,” Mallough said.
“(The) hospitality (industry) is still in a very tough place. More than half still aren’t back to their normal revenue levels.”
The partnership will let Ontarians of legal drinking age order beer, wine, and spirits from the LCBO through the Uber Eats app and get it delivered to their door.
The delivery platform said in a statement to CTV News Toronto on Friday that customers will need to confirm they are 19 years of age or older while ordering through the app and upon delivery before receiving the alcohol. Uber Eats added that sobriety will also be confirmed upon delivery.
The LCBO said the partnership is not part of any formal agreement with Uber Eats as AGCO-approved delivery service providers have been, for some time, allowed to deliver beverage alcohol.
“LCBO, as part of a time-limited pilot program, is having conversations with on-demand delivery providers to improve the customer experience including use of LCBO logo and product selection guidance,” a spokesperson for the Crown corporation said in a statement on Friday.
This is not the first time the LCBO partnered with a delivery service app. Back in 2020, it announced that its products would be available for delivery through SkipTheDishes. However, the partnership ended days later after receiving backlash from restaurant owners and Mayor John Tory.
Mallough said the Uber Eats partnership will discourage customers from ordering alcoholic drinks from restaurants, with the LCBO offering the same products at a lower price.
He noted that while restaurants and bars are only allowed to sell alcohol through delivery apps when food is included in the order, the rule does not apply to the LCBO.
“It’s sort of different rules for the big player in the game and different rules for the smaller guys. And that, again, is a major source of frustration for small businesses,” Mallough said.
“All they really want to do is be able to compete. When you get a different set of rules, especially for the bigger guys, it makes it very difficult to do that.”
Uber Eats said customers ordering LCBO alcohol would have to pay a $5.49 delivery fee.
Mallough said the same set of rules should be applied to all. If the LCBO can sell alcohol through delivery apps without purchasing a meal, businesses should be allowed to do that too.
“I think two things (need to happen). One, on the government side, let’s not put in rules that give unfair advantages to competition. Let’s let the businesses compete. Let them serve their customers,” he said.
“And then for all of us on the customer side, really what they need is for consumers to keep coming back. We saw this wonderful groundswell of local small business support throughout the pandemic. We want to make sure that we keep that going.