May 6 COVID-19 update: Ontario lowers booze bill, Ottawa numbers, hydro rate relief extended, COVID-19 feedback

Special to WC Online

ONTARIO – The provincial government is putting a dent in restaurant take-out orders’ booze bill with new legislation that will temporarily lower the cost of alcohol.

The Ontario government is taking additional measures to help hospitality sector workers and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The province is allowing licensed restaurants and bars to sell spirits with a food order at a lower price and is making it easier for cideries to sell directly to consumers.

Effective immediately, the price for whiskey, gin, rum and other spirits will be temporarily reduced from the current licensee minimum price of $2 per 29 millilitre to $1.34 per 29 ml. By making spirits more affordable the government is providing further support to restaurants, bars and other establishments that cannot serve patrons in-house during the current state of emergency.

“The AGCO continues to work closely with the Government of Ontario during the state of emergency to support Ontarians and the sectors we regulate,” AGCO Registrar and CEO Jean Major said.

 The reduced minimum prices for bottles of spirits sold by licensed establishments, and the rule change for cidery retail are additional ways to support the hospitality sector as it deals with the effects of COVID-19.” 

This measure will be revoked on Jan. 1, 2021, matching the duration of the temporary ability for bars and restaurants to sell alcohol with food for takeout and delivery which is in place until Dec. 31.

The government is also taking steps to support those who produce cider. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has temporarily removed the requirement for cideries to have five acres of planted fruit in order to qualify for a store at their cidery. This change will allow all licensed manufacturers of cider to sell their products on-site or deliver directly to consumers across Ontario.

Regulation 719 under Ontario’s Liquor Licence Act (LLA) sets out the minimum prices for alcohol sold at licensed establishments. Those price requirements are established per serving (e.g. per 1oz or 29 mL of spirits).

When Ontario recently amended Regulation 719 under the LLA to allow licensed establishments to sell alcohol as part of a food takeout or delivery order, the existing minimum price requirements were not changed.

Since establishments are only permitted to sell sealed, unopened containers of alcohol with food delivery and takeout orders, spirits costs became cost prohibitive for consumers.

Today’s (May 6) amendment to Regulation 719 provides a reduction to the per-serving cost of spirits sold with food takeout and delivery orders. Licensed establishments may still choose the price at which they will sell alcohol, as long as they are not lower than the minimum price requirements.

The reduced minimum pricing structure for spirits would only be applicable for takeout and delivery orders, so if the declared state of emergency ended prior to Jan. 1, 2021 and customers could be served in-house, the existing minimum price per serving for spirits would continue to apply to in-house service.

Ottawa numbers as of May 4

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) provides a daily report outlining an epidemiologic summary of COVID-19 activity in Ottawa to date. The latest report as of May 4, includes the most current information available and reported 1,535 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the community, including 138 deaths. This includes 31 new cases and 11 new deaths since the previous report. There are 25 ongoing outbreaks in institutions. To read the full report click here. OPH continues to provide detailed and informative information via and on their various social media channels. 

Ontario extends emergency orders to May 19

The Province of Ontario announced yesterday (May 5) they are extending all emergency orders put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 until at least May 19, after the Victoria Day long weekend. The emergency order prohibits gatherings of more than five people and also includes the closure of non-essential businesses, bars, restaurants, parks and public places. The province announced last week a staged approach to reopening when the time comes.

Electricity rate relief extended

Ontario is  extending emergency electricity rate relief to families, farms and small businesses until May 31, 2020 during the COVID-19 outbreak. Customers who pay time-of-use electricity rates will continue to be billed at the lowest price, known as the off-peak price, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Expanding virtual mental health services to help Ontarians experiencing anxiety and depression, including frontline health care workers, during the COVID-19 outbreak. Click here for more information.

COVID-19 – sharing your thoughts 

As Ottawa and the rest of the world continue to respond to this unprecedented time in history, the City of Ottawa and OPH are looking to learn more about your thoughts, perceptions and understanding of current restrictions in place related to COVID-19.

The city and OPH are currently exploring how we can safely reopen the city in a gradual, phased approach while aligning with the Province of Ontario’s framework for reopening the province. We want to hear from you about the changes you have made to protect yourself and your loved ones from COVID-19, how easy it has been for you to receive and understand information from different levels of government, what kinds of supports you have accessed, your ideas on how to maintain physical distancing into the future and much more. Please go to this link and provide your input:

City parks closed until June 30

All City of Ottawa park facilities and park equipment are closed until Tuesday, June 30. Only pass-throughs are permitted – while respecting physical distancing. You can walk, run, bike or use a mobility device to pass directly through the park. Going through a park to reach your destination or for exercise is permitted provided you do not linger or gather with others, play or undertake any other activity.

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