Regina restaurant hoping for off-sale license extension with COVID-19 measures lifting

With all provincial COVID-19 measures ending on Sunday, Saskatchewan restaurants will lose temporary licenses to operate liquor off-sales, but some businesses feel the change is happening too quickly.

Josh McLean, the owner of Homestead Bar A Vin, said the ability to operate small off-sales is what kept them afloat during the pandemic.

“That allowed us to essentially open up almost like a mini bottle shop. We had some wine tracks made by a friend of ours. We have mostly private import wines, so stuff you can’t really find anywhere else elsewhere in the city, and that essentially is the main reason why we’re still open today,” McLean said.

That revenue stream will come to an end Sunday, as the government pulls special off-sale licenses intended as a pandemic measure.

The hospitality association said these government measures during the pandemic were helpful for local businesses.

“Of course we’ve all known those are going to come to an end and now as we plan to reopen, it’s going to be tough when those end, but we’re really looking forward to the opportunity to reopening fully on July 11,” Jim Bence, the president and CEO of Hospitality Saskatchewan, said.

Restaurants received final word about the coming changes this week. The NDP opposition feel its short notice.

“I call on the SLGA to extend the off-sale privileges for restaurants and taverns as they continue to recover from an extremely challenging sixteen months,” Nicole Sarauer, an NDP MLA, said in a letter written to the provincial government.

McLean feels an extension of the off-sale rules would help his business.

“We’ve been in survival mode and now we’re in recuperation mode, so on the 11th, all the money we lost doesn’t magically reappear in our bank account so we need all the avenues possible,” he said.

The provincial government is not closing the door entirely on restaurant off-sale licenses. It said it is willing to consider options including making the licenses permanent.