The LCBO and SkipTheDishes deal to home deliver alcohol is on ‘pause’ after criticism from locked-down small businesses and restaurateurs

Skip ahead only two days after the LCBO announced a deal with SkipTheDishes to home deliver pandemic beer, wine and booze in Toronto, and Ontario’s finance minister and premier are asking the Crown liquor corporation to skip the arrangement — for now.

On Sunday, facing criticism from locked-down bars and restaurants trying to eke out an existence, Finance Minister Rod Phillips issued a statement saying he and Premier Doug Ford have asked the LCBO to “pause their recently announced delivery plans with SkipTheDishes.”

“COVID-19 has created unprecedented challenges for small businesses. Restaurants have been among the hardest hit, which is why our government has stepped up with support, including allowing them to sell alcohol via takeout and delivery. Restaurants continue to need our support,” read the statement.

The LCBO later announced it is indeed pausing the deal.

Suzette Henry, owner of Z Bar & Grille, a Jamaican pub near Keele Street and Eglinton Avenue West in the currently locked down city of Toronto, said the call was “great news but the slap of this even happening still stings. It shows how little consideration is truly given to small businesses.

“Asking the LCBO to pause is the least they can do,” said Henry in an email. “And not just until we are able to open our doors, but until we are fully on our feet again.”

In a statement Sunday, the LCBO said by end of day its “partnership with SkipTheDishes is paused until further notice. We are proud to continue offering a safe in-store shopping experience and our expanded same-day pickup option and will continue to look for new ways to increase choice and convenience for our customers.”

The partnership, which was to start with 15 LCBO locations in Toronto, was announced Friday, via the corporation’s website, and news of it remained posted there Sunday afternoon. The LCBO said it has plans to expand the arrangement elsewhere in the province in the new year.

Toronto Mayor John Tory told CP24 on Sunday that he felt the announcement of the deal was “ill-timed.”

SkipTheDishes could not be reached for comment by deadline Sunday, but a spokesperson said Saturday the company has been home delivering food and alcohol from restaurants and vendors in Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia and “have seen no evidence” restaurant partners have been “negatively affected.”

As of Sunday afternoon, select Toronto LCBO outlets were included on the SkipTheDishes website and listed items available for home delivery, with an alcohol handling fee tacked on. The website listed four nearby stores for delivery for a downtown address, with delivery times ranging from 27 to 43 minutes.

It’s a similar service to one that the LCBO and Foodora teamed up to deliver last year. Amid the pandemic, Foodora Canada shut down operations after a court found its couriers could unionize.

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TORONTO STAR