Restaurant sector fights PQ’s booze tax

Restaurant and bar owners left their kitchens and stepped out from behind their bars to protest the Quebec government’s retroactive tax on booze.

Protesters gather outside Place des Arts on Monday afternoon
Photo by Owain Harris

Yesterday, a number of restaurant and bar owners and staff demonstrated against the Quebec government’s proposed retroactive tax on alcohol. One of the demonstration’s organizers, Burgundy Lion co-owner Toby Lyle, explains below why the public’s support on this issue is important:

It seems that every time the Quebec government needs to make a quick cash grab, they focus on the restaurant and bar industry. Unfortunately, it is one of the most volatile industries in Quebec; close to 50 per cent of restaurants close within two years of opening. We are also one of the biggest employers in Quebec and the government has neglected to consider the repercussions of their decisions. Restaurants will close and jobs will be lost, whether it be full-time employees who have chosen hospitality as a career, or part-time employees who are able to support their educations, their art and their passions with the flexible schedules that restaurants allow.
In 2001, the government began taxing tips in Quebec. It remains the only province to do so, although tipping remains optional to diners.
In 2010, the Liberal government implemented the infamous MEV system — the black box that records all sales. Again, this is restricted exclusively to the restaurant industry, essentially labeling us all as tax cheats. And to add insult to injury, we were forced to purchase the box from the government at $2,000 apiece — one for every cash register in the restaurant.
There is talk of adding water meters to restaurants — yes, again just restaurants and no other industry — and charging us for our consumption of fresh water.
The question is, why does the government continue to pick on one particular industry? The answer is most probably because we are disorganized, apathetic and our lobby groups and organisations seem to be impotent and uninterested.
Restaurants are going to be forced to raise their prices and in the end, the consumer will end up footing at least part of the bill. After GST, PST, the current SAQ restaurant tax and the new tax, a $10 drink will end up costing the customer upwards of $16.


The demonstration’s organizers also released this press release yesterday, highlighting some facts about the Quebec bar and restaurant industry and the effects of this tax:

• There are more than 20,000 bars and restaurants in Quebec
• The industry is a major employer, with more than 200,000 Quebecers working in the sector
• The retroactive tax applies to all alcoholic beverages purchased before Nov. 20, 2012; it means alcohol-selling businesses will have to pay an extra 17 cents per litre of beer, and 50 cents per litre of wine/liquor — or what the group estimates as at least $220 per business with 1,000 L of beer and 100 L of other beverages
• Most restaurants’ profit margins are between three and five per cent
• More than 50 per cent of bars and restaurants in Quebec close after two years — double Ontario’s bankruptcy rate for the same industry
The industry was not consulted before the policy was implemented, but the tax has to be paid by Dec. 21, 2012

Check out Owain Harris’s photos of the demonstration here:

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Additional reading:
Restaurant, bar owners protest new tax measure (Montreal Gazette)
Quebec restaurants steaming over retroactive liquor tax (CTV News)
Restaurants oppose retroactive tax increase announced in Quebec budget (Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association)

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