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Nova Scotia gets B-minus on 2019 Raise the Bar report card from Restaurants Canada

Prohibition is history at last but current rules and regulations are creating an uneven playing field with craft breweries

/EIN News/ -- HALIFAX, Nova Scotia, Sept. 10, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- For the third time since 2015, Restaurants Canada has taken stock of liquor policies impacting foodservice and hospitality businesses from coast to coast in its biennial Raise the Bar report.

Once again, Nova Scotia has received a B-minus, hanging onto its place among the top of the class but still with room to grow. The report outlines the reasons for this grade and provides a path forward for the province to achieve an A by creating the country’s friendliest conditions for licensed establishments.

“Nova Scotia’s bars and restaurants still face relatively high tax rates and lack access to wholesale pricing on beer,” said Luc Erjavec, Restaurants Canada Vice President, Atlantic Canada. “The province also needs to address the increasingly uneven playing field that its current liquor rules are creating with craft breweries.”

Full 2019 Raise the Bar report card rankings:

Grade Province
B Alberta
B- Nova Scotia
B- Prince Edward Island
B- Quebec
C British Columbia
C Manitoba
C- Ontario
C- Saskatchewan
D- New Brunswick
D- Newfoundland & Labrador

Reasons to raise a glass

  • Prohibition is history at last. New provincial legislation has finally eliminated the Prohibition-era requirement for communities to hold plebiscites to permit the sale of alcohol. Municipal governments can now unilaterally end their “dry” status as soon as a business wants to sell liquor within their jurisdiction.
  • A new public safety tool. Anyone under the age of 19 years can now face a fine of $150 for either: Presenting false identification at a licensed establishment; or Being on licensed premises where underage patrons are not permitted. Restaurants Canada advocated for these reforms so that bars and restaurants would have a way to deter youth from using false identification to enter their establishments or to order liquor.
  • Recent reforms to liquor rules. Nova Scotia has introduced a few other liquor policy reforms since 2017 that have improved operational realities for bars and restaurants. Most notably: Restaurant patrons can now enjoy two alcoholic drinks without ordering a meal; and Liquor service hours are now the same every day of the week, giving Sunday brunch-goers the ability to enjoy alcoholic beverages before noon.

The glass is still half empty

The following impediments are still keeping foodservice and hospitality businesses from reaching their full potential:

  • Relatively high tax rates;
  • No liquor server wage;
  • No wholesale discounts on beer; and
  • Unfair competition from craft breweries.

Policies originally intended to give market access to Nova Scotia’s small liquor producers have increasingly been encroaching on the restaurant sector: consumers can enjoy restaurant fare at wineries, craft breweries and distilleries, yet those businesses are spared the much higher regulatory and tax burden placed on licensed foodservice establishments.

Restaurants Canada is hopeful that the province’s continued willingness to work closely with industry stakeholders will soon lead to progress on these key issues.

Survey says…

Compared to two years ago, licensed foodservice operators in Nova Scotia say liquor policies are:

Better The same Worse
37% 49% 14%

How can Nova Scotia raise the bar for licensed establishments?

  1. Make wholesale pricing available to all liquor licensees, for all types of beverage alcohol products. Currently only restaurateurs in Alberta and on Prince Edward Island have access to discounted wholesale pricing on wine, spirits and beer.
  2. Undertake a comprehensive re-write of liquor legislation to cut red tape and reflect changing market conditions. It’s time to update rules that are out of step with modern business practices.
  3. Allow all liquor licensees to sell alcohol for off-site consumption. Why should restaurateurs who are trained and trusted to serve alcoholic beverages within their establishments be restricted from selling those same products to their customers to enjoy off-site?
  4. Introduce a liquor server wage. A wage differential for tipped workers allows restaurateurs to allocate more towards higher wages for non-gratuity earning kitchen staff, who are typically harder to attract and retain.
  5. Reduce excessive markups on beverage alcohol products. The amount of tax collected on liquor in Canada is among the highest in the world. Across the country, a cocktail of federal and provincial taxes and fees currently make up: Nearly 50 per cent of the cost of beer; between 65 and 70 per cent of the final price of wine; and up to 80 per cent of the cost of spirits.

Visit to download the full report and join in the online conversation with the hashtag #RaiseTheBar2019.

About Raise the Bar

Raise the Bar is a report produced every two years by Restaurants Canada evaluating the impact of liquor policies on bars and restaurants across the country.

Provincial policies evaluated for the 2019 Raise the Bar report were reviewed within the following four major categories and, after analysis and weighting, each province was given an overall letter grade:

  1. Pricing and Selection
  2. Licensing and Regulation
  3. Customer Sales
  4. Political/Regulatory Activity

All survey results featured in the 2019 Raise the Bar report were compiled from more than 700 responses to an online questionnaire that was emailed to foodservice operators across Canada between June 12 and Aug. 26, 2019.

About Restaurants Canada

Restaurants Canada is a national, not-for-profit association advancing the potential of Canada’s diverse and dynamic foodservice industry through member programs, research, advocacy, resources and events. Canada’s foodservice sector is an $89 billion industry that directly employs 1.2 million workers, is Canada’s number one source of first jobs and serves 22 million customers across the country every day.


Marlee Wasser
                    Restaurants Canada
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