As Canadians continue to contend with the devastating impacts of COVID-19, business owners across many sectors have had to stop on a dime and rethink their entire business models to stay afloat.
One of the most significant examples of this is the bar and restaurant industry, where economic losses and new safety requirements have forced owners and managers to adjust their operations practically overnight.
These service-based businesses have had to pivot to takeout and delivery models, retrofit dining rooms to ensure patron safety, expand patios during summer months and now attempt to winterize — all at immense cost during a time of uncertainty.
And still we are not anywhere near in the clear: Statistics Canada has projected that 60 per cent of restaurants may close this fall.
To help the industry recover, governments need to get creative in finding ways to provide relief. Restaurants are not only the cornerstone of many communities across Canada, they’re also closely tied to a number of different areas within our economy — beer being one of them.
Eighty-five per cent of beer consumed in Canada is produced right here at home. It is by and large a local industry, with small brewers and larger producers making significant contributions to Canada’s GDP. In the first wave of the pandemic, bar and restaurant beer sales dropped by 90 per cent in many provinces, and remain 50 per cent below normal levels.
With COVID-19’s second wave making the situation even more challenging for the food service industry and the 1.2 million women and men it employs, we need to find ways to provide every bit of relief we can.
Every small step governments can take to help keep a local business open and protect jobs is a win for everybody: the business owner, their employees, their customers and their communities.
This is why the restaurant sector has joined together with more than 20 organizations, associations and businesses across Canada — from brewers, tourism, hospitality and agriculture partners — to deliver a simple but critical message to government: to hold the line on tax, to not add to the burden facing our restaurants, farming communities, business and labour organizations. To “Freeze It For Them.”
Some of the facts may surprise you. Tax is the single largest component of Canadian beer prices. Almost half the price of beer in Canada — 47 per cent — is government tax; a commodity tax rate five times higher than the U.S. and significantly higher than most EU countries.
In fact, consumers and licensees in many Canadian provinces pay more in tax than most U.S. consumers pay for beer.
And beer taxes continue to increase — in some cases automatically — every year. Since the federal government introduced an automatic alcohol escalator tax in 2017, federal beer taxes have gone up four times, most recently on April 1 of this year at the onset of the…