Six days into the LCBO strike and Ontario’s restaurants and bars are already making some complaints about wholesale delays, even though many tried to stock up before the job action began.

But what about if it goes on for months?

“The real thing for business owners on timeline is: Is this going to get wrapped up before the end of summer? Because this is like key time for them,” said Ryan Mallough, the vice-president of Ontario legislative affairs for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

“Like these next six, seven weeks are make or break for a lot of them — patios are open, people are out and about. If this persists too long or we really see that wholesale channel collapse or fall apart or really get delayed, then that’s going to have a significant impact.”

Mallough said the one issue CFIB members are telling him about is the LCBO wholesale system that has been set up “to keep the flow of alcohol going for restaurants, bars, licensees.

“We are starting to hear some complaints that that is sort of not working,” he said.

“The frustrations that we’ve heard are the delays, like the timing it takes to get something from the online order. And also some products not appearing to be in stock. And also there are some volume restrictions around what you can purchase. Like we’ve heard from one member that said they wanted to buy whiskey, but they could only buy it from the crate. And they didn’t need a crate, they only needed a few bottles. The concerns we hear are around spirits.”

On Monday, the LCBO scrapped a plan to temporarily reopen five stores on Wednesday to allow bar and restaurant owners to buy alcohol wholesale during the strike after the Crown corporation said the union threatened to picket these locations.

“We have made the decision to offer an alternative online experience for smaller orders. Details will be shared directly with our licensees,” said the LCBO in a statement.


On Wednesday, the LCBO issued another statement saying in part: “While LCBO continues to operate, it is not business as usual. … We are doing our best to stay in line with our estimated delivery timelines and appreciate the patience of our retail and wholesale customers should their order take longer than anticipated due to high volumes. We apologize for the impact of OPSEU’s strike on all our customers, including the small local businesses trying to shop with us, and on our partners.”

Mallough said the LCBO strike appears to have had less of an impact on Ontario vineyards, breweries and distilleries that make their products on site.

“At the same time, there’s still concern because distilleries, breweries and vineyards (that) all tend to sell through the LCBO, they’re losing that channel,” he said.

“(But) I think there’s also an opportunity for people to show some support locally. If you haven’t checked out that brewery in your neighbourhood, now’s a great opportunity, so we’re certainly hopeful that that’s happening across the province as well.”

During the strike by LCBO’s approximately 10,000 OPSEU employees, mobile orders through the website and app are still continuing, which allows for free home delivery anywhere in Ontario.

The LCBO has also said alcohol is available at 2,300 private retailers across the province, including LCBO Convenience Outlets, licensed grocery stores, The Beer Store, and winery, brewery, cidery and distillery outlets.