‘Not fair’: Businesses frustrated with LCBO-Uber Eats partnership

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Giuseppe Marchesini, a restaurant owner in Little Italy, is concerned about how the alcohol delivery partnership between LCBO and Uber Eats will affect his bottom line.

He said it’s unfair, given that his business and others have not fully recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That’s another competitor and it’s a great competitor,” Marchesini told CP24 on Saturday night.

“We feel it’s not fair. They can be more mindful of supporting small businesses. We’re still struggling. Even if the guests support us and we’re full, we’ll need a little more attention.”

Marchesini is not the only restaurant owner to be frustrated by the news. Ryan Mallough of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) said many of its members are expressing disappointment with the association.

He said it will put companies at a disadvantage.

“We’ve already heard from some of our members in the hospitality industry, and it’s a bit of a blow,” Mallough said.

“(The) hospitality (industry) is still in a very difficult place. More than half are still not back to their normal income levels.”

The partnership will allow Ontarians of legal drinking age to order beer, wine and spirits from the LCBO through the Uber Eats app and have it delivered to their door.

The delivery platform said in a statement to CTV News Toronto on Friday that customers will need to confirm that they are 19 or older when ordering through the app and at delivery before receiving the alcohol. Uber Eats added that sobriety will also be confirmed at the time of delivery.

The LCBO said the association is not part of any formal agreement with Uber Eats, as AGCO-approved delivery service providers have, for some time, been allowed to deliver alcoholic beverages.

“LCBO, as part of a limited-time pilot program, is having discussions with on-demand delivery providers to improve the customer experience, including the use of the LCBO logo and product selection guide,” a spokesperson for the LCBO said. Crown Corporation in a statement Friday. .

This isn’t the first time the LCBO has partnered with a delivery service app. 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 partnership with Uber Eats will discourage customers from ordering alcoholic beverages at restaurants, and the LCBO will offer the same products at a lower price.

He noted that while restaurants and bars can only sell alcohol through delivery apps when food is included in the order, the rule does not apply to the LCBO.

“It’s kind of different rules for the big players in the game and different rules for the smaller ones. 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 becomes very difficult to do that.”

Uber Eats said customers ordering LCBO alcohol would have to pay a delivery fee of $5.49.

Mallough said the same set of rules should apply to everyone. If the LCBO can sell alcohol through delivery apps without buying a meal, businesses should be able to too.

“I think two things (need to happen. One, on the part of the government, let’s not set rules that give unfair advantages to the competition. Let companies 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’ve seen this wonderful outpouring of support for local small businesses during the pandemic. We want to make sure we keep it that way.”

– with files from Marc Liverman and Abby O’Brien of CTV News Toronto

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