N.S. restaurants call on province to make booze with takeout, delivery permanent

While the province of Nova Scotia says alcohol can be sold with takeout orders indefinitely, restaurants in the province are hoping it becomes a permanent change.

The province announced Friday that restaurants could reopen at full capacity, but there’s still an interest in takeout and delivery orders — and the drinks that can come with it.

“One of the things coronavirus did was open people’s eyes to new restaurants, new takeout, new delivery experiences and I don’t think that’s going to go away,” said Jennie Dobbs, owner of the Morris East restaurants in the Halifax area.

“That’s a really good thing for the restaurant industry.”

Dobbs said the interest hasn’t changed with restaurants reopening, especially with people who have small children or work schedules that would otherwise stop them from going out to eat at a restaurant.

She also said customers have been using takeout meals and drinks as a birthday present, or to celebrate a special occasion.

Additional revenue source

Dan Tanner, president of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia, said many people are not yet comfortable going out, so the interest in takeout and delivery is still huge.

He hopes to see alcoholic drinks become a permanent part of takeout offerings going forward.

“That’s another part of the meal for many people,” Tanner said.

“We’re all very happy to have this as an opportunity now for us. It’s an additional revenue source in times where things are quite difficult for restaurants.”

The value of alcohol purchased with a takeout or delivery order must not be more than three times the value of the food purchase. (Mira Oberman/AFP via Getty Images)

Krista Higdon, a spokesperson for the province, confirmed that restaurants can continue to include alcohol purchases with takeout and delivery orders “indefinitely.”

These beverages must be pre-packaged products from producers, which include wine, beer and cider, but no mixed drinks.

The value of the alcohol sold must also be no more than three times the value of the food purchase.

Delivery must be done by an employee of the restaurant who is 19 or older. That means orders through Uber Eats or SkipTheDishes can’t include alcohol.

Tanner said restaurant staff have the same amount of training as liquor store staff when it comes to safely selling alcohol.

Financial, morale boost

In an industry that operates on “razor-thin margins,” Dobbs said the government listening to the restaurant industry and acting quickly to allow for alcohol to be included with takeout orders during a stressful time gave them a “huge morale boost.”

“Then it turned into a financial boost as well because we did start to see people taking advantage of it,” she said.

Dobbs said she hopes the government will continue to work with the restaurant industry to make changes “and just not automatically say no because it’s never been done before.”

“I think this is an excellent pilot to explore certain regulations that could potentially be rethought,” she said.

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