‘It’s not fair’: Businesses frustrated by LCBO-Uber Eats partnership

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

He said that’s unfair, given that his company and others haven’t fully recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s another competitor and a big competitor,” Marchesini told CP24 on Saturday night.

“We don’t think it’s fair. They could pay more attention to supporting small businesses. We’re still struggling. Even if guests support us and we’re full, we’ll need a little more attention.”

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

He said it would put businesses at a disadvantage.

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

“(The) hospitality (industry) is still in a very difficult situation. More than half still haven’t returned 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 have to confirm they are 19 or older while ordering through the app and after delivery before receiving alcohol. Uber Eats added that sobriety will also be verified upon delivery.

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

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

This isn’t the first time the LCBO has partnered with a delivery service app. Back in 2020, he announced that his products would be available for delivery through SkipTheDishes. However, the partnership ended a few days later after the restaurant’s owners and Mayor John Tory received backlash.

Mallough said the Uber Eats partnership will discourage customers from ordering alcoholic beverages 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 if 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 players. And that, again, is a major source of frustration for small businesses,” Mallough said.

“All they really want is to be able to compete. When you get a different set of rules, especially for the bigger guys, it makes it very difficult.”

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

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

“I think two things (need to happen). One, on the government side, let’s not introduce rules that give unfair advantages to competitors. Let’s let companies compete. Let them serve their customers,” he said.

“And then for all of us on the customer side, what they really need is to keep consumers coming back. We’ve seen this wonderful outpouring of support from local small businesses throughout the pandemic. We want to make sure we continue that.”

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

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