Drive to drink: SAQ glitch cancels deliveries to 900 bars and restaurants
Published Saturday, June 17, 2017 12:09PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, June 17, 2017 6:29PM EDT
A glitch in the SAQ’s alcohol delivery system is causing large non-hangover related headaches for 900 restaurants and bars.
In a letter sent to clients, SAQ client affairs director Francis Cournoyer apologized for the inconvenience and said the glitch, which was caused by the installation of a new warehouse information system, could set back deliveries by days or even weeks.
Most of the affected businesses are in the greater Montreal area.
Dominique Tremblay, spokesperson for the Quebec Restauranteur's Association, said her organization was made aware of the problem several days ago. She said such an issue hasn't cropped up in the past.
“Alcohol is very important. They have to have their bottles in place," she said. "We told our members to be proactive and go to their usual SAQ branch and get the alcohol by themselves. They can use cash-and-carry and buy it there and just leave with the bottles they need.”
Tremblay noted the timing for the outage couldn't have been worse as restaurants anticipate busy Fete Nationale and Canada Day long weekends. Profit margins at restaurants can be as low as three per cent, with much of profits coming from alcohol sales.
"It's a big problem right now. There's two long weekends coming up so it's really bad timing but the SAQ is aware of the situation and they're trying."
Until it’s sorted out, bar and restaurant owners will have to pick up their often-sizeable orders at two SAQ service centres, which have extended their hours over the next week during the interruption in service. However, the issue is complicated by restrictions on the liquor bars and restaurants can serve. Bottles must be approved and stamped to ensure the establishments are not violating their licenses. While the liquor at the two service centres are pre-stamped, owners who go to any of the seven other SAQ outlets that serve restaurants will have to wait for the bottles to be stamped, which can lead to long wait times.
Michael Barone, owner of La Molisana restaurant, said the glitch has already caused him headaches. He said he was forced to bring back 25 cases of liquor in his small car after waiting for 90 minutes at his SAQ supply centre to find his order.
"I walked into the SAQ, there is a sea of people, everyone is running around like chicken's without their head. Where's the problem?" he said.
"We've been asking for a long time for the stamps on the bottles to be removed and not be mandatory," said Tremblay. "If it was not mandatory, it wouldn't be as big a problem as it is right now."