P.E.I. breweries, cideries grateful liquor deliveries now permanent

·3 min read

Home liquor deliveries are here to stay on Prince Edward Island and after several tough months, the news is welcomed by local breweries and cideries.

Changes to the Liquor Control Act were initially made temporarily during COVID-19 to allow for home liquor delivery, and on Friday the government announced the revisions would be permanent.

This means agency liquor stores, micro-breweries, wineries, distilleries, ferment-on-premise establishments and restaurants with a package sales license can all deliver liquor directly to Islanders at home.

"It actually was about the only thing we had going for a little while," said David McGuire, the owner-operator at Bogside Brewing in Montague.

"Everywhere, everyone was closed. Our customers were closed. We were closed. Liquor stores were closed for a few days. So it was our only opportunity for sales at a certain point."

Access to more products

Bogside made the decision to close to customers even before the Chief Public Health Office ordered it in March. And like many Island companies, it had to look for new ways of doing business — McGuire said direct delivery was the answer.

Nicola MacLeod/CBC News
Nicola MacLeod/CBC News

"Our customers enjoy it," said McGuire. "They've come to embrace it."

Currently, the brewery has just five products available through the P.E.I. Liquor Control Commission, but its taproom carries 18 products, which can all be home-delivered.

"[Delivery] gives people access to a whole variety of products that we're really pleased to present," said McGuire.

"We get a lot of reactions from people saying, 'Oh I didn't realize you made so many things.'"

'Opens another door'

McGuire said the company tries to deliver to Charlottetown, Stratford and Cornwall areas daily. But, he adds, it will travel across the Island to any location on Wednesdays.

Nicola MacLeod/CBC News
Nicola MacLeod/CBC News

"We'll take beer anywhere," said McGuire. "We get met with various levels of enthusiasm but it's always on the positive side for sure."

Red Island Cider in Charlottetown also delivers across the province.

"Certainly we don't have a tone of deliveries out to Tignish but we will deliver anywhere on the Island," said general manager Rod Weatherbie. "It opens another door for customers."

He said having the option to deliver helped the company stay afloat throughout the pandemic, and he hopes strong delivery sales continue even after the pandemic is over.

"It allows us to reach customers we may not have originally been able to get ahold of either through the taproom or liquor stores."

Weatherbie believes many people will use the delivery service when weather is poor, and they have already been making a lot of Christmas deliveries.

No touch, no tax policy

Home delivery was one of five requests the P.E.I. Craft Brewers Alliance made to government back in April to help businesses in the industry survive.

Sara Fraser/CBC
Sara Fraser/CBC

In a letter to the P.E.I. Liquor Control Commission, the group also asked the province to allow breweries to mail product off-Island, waive licensing and marketing fees for 2020, allow direct delivery of packaged goods to licensees and agency stores, and eliminate the tax of beer the brewers themselves sell or sell in kegs to licensees.

"Probably number one on that list is the taxation environment where it relates to the products that are direct to consumers," said Jeff Squires, the acting chairman for the P.E.I. Craft Brewers Alliance.

Brewers are currently taxed 25 cents per litre on any kegs they deliver directly to licensees, like restaurants.

"We really have to look at if that tax is applicable or not," said Squires. "And right now it's probably not."

But in an emailed statement to CBC News, the province said the tax won't change anytime soon, because implementing a ''no touch, no tax" policy would cost the government $368,000.

The statement said the P.E.I. Liquor Control Commission did however waive all license renewal fees for 2020 and waived marketing fees until mid-June 2020 to help establishments like breweries and wineries get through the pandemic.

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