Montreal bars want to sell drinks to go, saying they won't survive otherwise

A Montreal bar association is pushing the government to loosen its restrictions around alcohol sales and let them sell takeout drinks on a temporary basis.

It’s only fair, they say, since restaurants have been allowed to include drinks with takeout meals.

But more importantly, they’re not sure how much longer they can survive their closures.

“You have all your fixed fees to pay, you have rent, you have hydro, a lot of stuff to pay still, but you have no money coming in,” said Simon Dunn, the owner of Drinkerie and Le Fricot in Little Burgundy.

There’s been some federal and provincial loan money, he said, “but that's still just more debt.”

The members of the association want the right to sell beer, wine and even cocktails to go.

Some cities have allowed takeout alcohol, including Toronto and New York.

But a spokesperson for Quebec’s ministry of public security confirmed that the idea of to-go alcohol is not on the table right now.

The bars argue that not only do they face a double standard with restaurants, but they’ll probably be one of the last types of businesses allowed to reopen.

“It's pretty hard,” said Marcos Almaguer, the owner of Bar Darling in the Plateau. 

“Let's be real, it's going to be the last thing to open up because, of course, [of] health and security reasons, and it's fine—we all understand that—but if they don't allow us to sell alcohol, half the bars in Montreal aren't going to be able to survive.”

Bar Darling has been selling meals to go and non-alcoholic drinks, but they don’t qualify to sell drinks, and he says the profit margins on food are too small—about a third of what it is for alcohol.

Bars that don’t sell food have been forced to close completely.

“We want to not to be a Wild West or free-for-all, but just [to have] a fighting chance, basically,” said Dunn.

“If they decide to act in the next few months, it's too late. They have to act right now, because a lot of places will have closed in a few months.”

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