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Hotels and taverns solicit patron support for bid to compete with liquor, beer stores.

Hotels and taverns solicit patron support for bid to compete with liquor, beer stores

Ontarians may one day be able to buy their packaged beer and liquor at their neighborhood bar.

In an effort to support sagging bar receipts at Ontario hotels and taverns, the Ontario Hotel and Motel Association (OHMA) has asked its members to solicit patron support for a petition calling for the "off-sale" of liquor and beer at these establishments.

Response to the petition has been "absolutely fabulous," according to association president John Schaffer.

Schaffer reported that due to declines in sales of as much as 40 per cent in some rural establishments, the "off-sale" of alcohol at taverns and hotels would provide much-needed revenue.

He attributes the sales decrease to intense competition from franchises and a change in consumer drinking habits.

Don Johnson, the association's director responsible for all members within the 807 telephone area code, explained that "off-sales" would mean survival for some of the hotel owners in his jurisdiction.

Although there will be no accurate count of the signatures until the petitions are returned later this month, Schaffer has received reports from towns such as Kenora that as many as 200 people signed a petition on the first day it was circulated.

The association circulated approximately 2,000 petitions to its 1,800 member establishments.

Schaffer said that in several areas "even the MPs and MPPs signed their names."

The association has been lobbying for the right to sell beer and liquor at Ontario hotels and taverns since the former Liberal government proposed five years ago to allow the sale of these products in grocery and corner stores.

Schaffer explained that the association disagreed with the proposal, arguing that the infrastructure for the sale of these products was already in place at hotels.

Schaffer noted that licensed establishments are regarded by the government and insurance companies as experts in the sale of these products and are accordingly held responsible and liable for selling them legally.

Johnson, who is also the owner of the Wayland Hotel in Thunder Bay, agrees with Schaffer.

"The product is for professionals to handle. We're the ones who have been in the business for years."

Johnson believes that it would be a mistake to sell alcohol in a convenience store.

"Why give the option to a non-professional? If you needed pharmaceutical drugs, you would go to a pharmacy - to a professional - you wouldn't go to a convenience store," he said.

POSSIBLE EFFECTS

Schaffer claimed the sale of liquor and beer by hotels would not adversely affect provincial beer and liquor stores. However, the addition of "off-sales" would benefit the rural areas, specifically in Northern Ontario. He said the north has expressed interest for years in having the products available through more accessible means.

"We're not here to put the beer stores out of business. They will still exist. But the option allows for convenience with respect to distribution and hours of operation," he said.

Schaffer said consumers could expect to pay about $1.50 more for a case of beer because the hotels must purchase the product at retail prices.

"The market system demands the price, and we are in a strong supply-and-demand situation," said Schaffer.

In an attempt to set aside any fears that the sale of beer and liquor at hotels and taverns may risk the public's safety, Schaffer explained that the association's proposal calls for the sale of the products to take place in a separate area of a tavern which will have a separate entrance.

Furthermore, "the sale would be sealed into appropriate containers with the intention that the consumer is purchasing it to take home," he said.

The association is hoping that the new NDP government in Ontario will support its proposal for "off-sales."
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Author:McDougall, Douglas
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Oct 1, 1990
Words:629
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