September 25, 2020

Pandemic shakes up Vancouver’s alcohol-delivery sector

Joseph Richard Group expands hospitality operations with beer, wine and spirits delivery app

Joseph Richard Group principal Ryan Moreno recently launched an alcohol-delivery app that has no minimum order or fees. Here he is standing in front of one of his pubs |  Chung Chow

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken up the liquor delivery business in Metro Vancouver, opening the door – at least temporarily – for restaurants to deliver alcohol with meals, for consumers to receive alcohol bought from private retailers through meal-delivery apps and for a diverse range of companies to enter the fray.

One player, the Joseph Richard Group (JRG), recently spent more than $100,000 to build and launch an app, called LIQR, which enables customers to buy alcohol for next-day delivery with no fees.

Owner Ryan Moreno told BIV that he anticipates providing same-day deliveries soon across Metro Vancouver, and that business has been brisk thanks to his strategy to match and sometimes beat the prices offered at government liquor stores.

“If you get your groceries delivered to your house, why in the world would you not want your beer and wine delivered to your house too? It’s the way of the future.”

Moreno is eyeing cross-country expansion to build a larger network and profit from economies of scale.

Many liquor retailers in B.C. do not have e-commerce websites, much less apps.

One of the pioneers in establishing an e-commerce website, Marquis Wine Cellars owner John Clerides, told BIV that he does not see the value in building an app.

“The cost of an app is fairly expensive,” he said. “Our website is doing just fine.”

The B.C. government recently granted Clerides’ wine store permission to sell beer and spirits, and he is working through the bureaucracy to be able to stock those products soon.

Clerides' store provides same-day delivery within Vancouver as long as orders are made by 2 p.m., but there are delivery fees unless the order is $200 before tax. Other wine stores, such as Liberty Wine Merchants, also have $200 minimum orders for free delivery.

The largest liquor-delivery app in North America is likely Boston-based Drisly, which is in more than 100 markets across the continent. Company representatives said in 2018 that it planned to operate in Vancouver, but its app does not yet function in the city.

One newcomer to the alcohol-delivery game is the e-commerce website Legends Haul, which has long partnered with a range of local businesses to deliver groceries and meals. It partnered this summer with Coquitlam’s Austin Station Liquor Store to deliver across the Lower Mainland. The deliveries come with a $4.99 fee.

Other ventures do business as third-party operators that deliver alcohol for added fees. Meal-delivery apps, such as Uber Eats, have also recently started delivering products bought at private liquor stores, and they charge extra fees.

What makes JRG’s fee-free app particularly valuable for the company is that it can benefit from vertical integration. The company manages operations at the Stanley Park Brewing Restaurant and Brewpub and at Glass House Estate Winery. It also separately has contracted a brewery to make its Two Pals beer. The app, therefore, helps the company sell its own products.

Despite JRG being known primarily for owning more than a dozen restaurants and pubs, its app is linked to the company’s three liquor store licences.

Those licences allow the company to deliver alcohol without food, which restaurants and pubs are required to do, as well as to buy alcohol at wholesale prices.

The B.C. government in June started to allow restaurants to buy alcohol at wholesale prices, but that is part of a pilot project that is set to end on March 31, 2021. The pilot project that allows restaurants to deliver alcohol with food also ends March 31, 2021. •



Fiscal prudence among first casualties of Canada’s pandemic politics

The federal throne speech declared: “This is not a time for austerity.”

And: “Canadians should not have to take on debt that their government can better shoulder.”

Easily declared, of course, when there are no limits on spending the money government is given by us to spend on us.

When the embattled governor general ceremonially read the speech for the serene prime minister – quite the emotional role reversal – she pronounced that “like a reed in high winds, we might sway but we will not break.”

Well, give us time. You’re working on it.

The “ambitious plan for an unprecedented reality” Julie Payette conveyed on behalf of Justin Trudeau is the magical thinking phase of the pandemic that has lately afflicted anyone with a large agenda and little accountability – which is to say, most every political figure.

On the basis of what might flow from that speech in Ottawa and what might flow from a new NDP mandate in British Columbia, it is time to worry about the post-pandemic period. Where does the overreaching ambition end? How will this proposed reality be financed?

One million jobs. A net-zero-emission economy. World-class excellence in building electric vehicles. All majestically dependent on the revenue from fossil fuels.

No tax on the rich or on the digital giants will offset a fraction of the frightening debt being amassed in this gigantic pivot that fortifies the public sector. No, it will come from all of us, likely in heaps through our capital gains, our compensation and our consumption.

The C.D. Howe Institute, with former Liberal finance minister John Manley and former Saskatchewan finance minister Janice McKinnon fronting the think tank’s latest research, warned last week that not the wealthy, but the “average taxpayer” will be ensnared in “broad-based tax increases” if the country does not wish to be vulnerable following the spree to inevitable, eventual economic shocks.

The muted responses of big and small businesses alike last week to the throne speech suggested gratitude for the extension of short-term support but apprehension about long-term competitiveness. There does not appear to be any end in sight to spending or any hint of how it might be underwritten, nor anything in what we have heard so far but only notional nods toward economic growth or innovation that rises above a vanity play.

This magical thinking phase requires that we rule out the basic concept of paying back with some sacrifice for what we borrowed in need. The money just manifests, and there are no seeming consequences.

Few disputed the compassionate moves to mitigate individual hardship and business failure, and few can doubt there will be more required on those two specific frontiers, but is the most extensive health crisis in our history also the time to pursue the most extensive remake of our economy? How much of this is needed and not just wanted? Do we even know the duration of this crisis, much less what might follow it?

The items on the agenda in Ottawa, and quite clearly on the docket in B.C., far transcend economic recovery plans; they are economic reform plans, their valid growth initiatives (child care, for example) obscured by opportunistic, ideological and selfish gestures to sustain power by writing cheques. They place bets on or against sectors using house money. Electoral mandates to the federal and provincial governments will perpetuate, even accentuate this.

A worried friend sent along a quote last week from the esteemed Scottish lawyer, writer and historian Alexander Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee, circa 18th century, a crony of Robbie Burns. “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury.”

Trudeau and John Horgan are borrowing on this concept, buying us off and paying lip service to the traditions of prudence in Canadian fiscal policy, doing so at a most dangerous time mainly because there is nothing stopping them. Not themselves, and not others, at least not yet. •

Kirk LaPointe is publisher and editor-in-chief of BIV and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.


Here's how the PNE plans to 'slay' Halloween 2020

Move over Fright Nights, there's a new Halloween event in town 👻

You can ride the historic wooden roller coaster during 'Slayland' at Playland this October | Photo: PNE/Playland via Facebook

Halloween is definitely not cancelled this year, but as we all know, it's going to have to happen a little differently.

While Vancouver's PNE is known for its annual "Fright Nights" scare-fest, this Halloween they plan to "slay" the season with a couple of special pandemic-friendly events.

Starting Oct. 9, Playland will turn into "Slayland - Night of a Thousand Screams." There will be 20 rides up and running (including the scream-causing Beast coaster), a walk-through outdoor haunted experience, and lots of spooky decor.

And how about this for a first: Slayland will also be "the first time in the PNE Halloween event history that guests will be allowed to wear costumes."

Of course, there are some restrictions on costumes - face paint and costume masks are a no-go - and there will be some fun themes for costumes each weekend, like "retro" or "superheroes." Additionally, like in the summer, non-medical face masks will continue to be required in all queues and while on attractions.

Ready for yet another first? Kids under 13 will be allowed (since there are no haunted houses) at Slayland, however the event remains not recommended for kids under eight.

For hungry Halloween fans, there's going to be another "drive-thru experience" available. A Taste of the PNE Drive-Thru: Tricks-and-Treats Edition is a family-oriented event that will feature live spooky characters, Halloween décor, and safe trick-or-treating.

Admission includes the drive-thru experience as well as a trick-or-treat bag with a selection of mini PNE goodies that includes a Halloween-themed candy apple, treat-sized popcorn, mini cotton candy, mini donuts and packaged candy.

“Halloween is an incredibly important part of the year for everyone here at the PNE,” says President and CEO Shelley Frost, “and we’ve had a lot of questions and interest in our plans for 2020, given the situation with COVID-19. I’m really proud that our team has developed two very unique experiences for a wide range of guests. Although it is not possible to host our traditional Fright Nights, we have a new haunting experience and chilling décor for our young adult Fright Night fans and this year we will have a separate experience on-site aimed at children and parents who are limited in their trick-or-treat options due to the pandemic.”


When: Oct. 9-11; 16-18; 22-25; 29-31 from 6-11 p.m.

Where: Playland at the PNE - 2901 E Hastings St, Vancouver

Cost: Oct. 9-25 (includes complimentary mask - while quantities last - and all fees and taxes); Oct. 29-31 $44.50 (includes complimentary mask - while quantities last - and all fees and taxes). Purchase tickets online

A Taste of the PNE Drive-Thru: Tricks-and-Treats Edition

When: Oct. 30 from 4-8 p.m. and Oct. 31 from 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

Where: PNE grounds - 2901 E Hastings St, Vancouver

Cost: $25 per carload, includes one trick-or-treat bag of goodies. Additional treat-filled bags can be purchased for $15 each (prices include all fees and taxes). Purchase advance tickets for chosen timeslot online.

Vancouver Is Awesome



Richmond bakery in overdrive pumping out mooncakes to create stability in an uncertain time

Chefs at Saint Germain Bakery pull dozens of the seasonal treat out of the oven every 12 minutes

Saint Germain Bakery is rolling out freshly-baked mooncakes to cheer people up | Photo: Submitted

The kitchen at Saint Germain Bakery is rich with the smell of freshly-baked moon cakes as chefs pull dozens of the seasonal treat out of the oven every 12 minutes.

The local bakery is launching fresh-out-of-the-oven mooncakes to help cheer people up, despite the challenges of 2020, said Alex Ma, marketing manager of Saint Germain Bakery at Aberdeen Square.

These mooncakes come straight out of the oven and taste similar to Chinese steamed custard buns, a classic Cantonese recipe that yields a tender pastry with just the right amount of sweetness, according to Ma.

Roundness symbolizes completeness and togetherness in Asian culture. Therefore, the round mooncakes represent the harvest moon in the night sky during the Mid-Autumn Festival. 

Mooncakes are more than food, said Ma. Most of the ones sold at local supermarkets are imported from other countries and have been made several months earlier. However, these Chinese steamed custard mooncakes are made here in Richmond. 


Photo courtesy Saint Germain Bakery

"The outside of the mooncake is flaky, and the inside is filled with salted egg yolk, tasting warm, a bit salty but sweet. For many people, these treats really hit the spot. They are like a passageway to childhood and many sweet memories. Just like music and literature, food can transcend cultural boundaries as well. 

"2020 has been a crazy year, and many people are filled with fear and worry. We want to support our community by making high-quality desserts and pastries to help them feel happier with every bite," said Ma. 

Chefs have been working hard to develop mooncakes flavours that go beyond the traditional lotus seed and red bean paste. 

"Last year, we launched rose-flavored mooncakes filled with rose jam. When you open the package, there is a lingering hint of roselle (a type of hibiscus) smell. We try to be more creative and bring more fun to Richmond families each year since the Mid-Autumn Festival is considered a big reunion time for families, just like Thanksgiving," added Ma. 

Saint Germain Bakery mooncakes will be on sale until Oct. 1.

Richmond News



'Time travel' back to 1930s Vancouver via this incredible new video

@bigblueani via YouTube

Ever wonder what it might have looked like to walk the streets of downtown Vancouver nearly a century ago?

A video recently created and shared by Brian A. Walters is like a "time machine" that takes viewers to the heart of the city around 90 years ago.

Walters says he did take a few creative liberties in assembling the images: "This piece is from roughly 1930 and shows the area around Georgia and Granville Streets, though it isn't one particular year as much as it is a greatest hits of early 1900s Vancouver architecture."

Architecture buffs may note that while the buildings are beautiful, not all the neighbours are wholly accurate. 

"Many of these buildings never actually lived together at the same time, but how cool do they all look together?" adds Walters.

Pretty cool, is the standard answer.

Keep your eye out for historic signs and businesses, B.C. Electric trolley cars whizzing by, and some landmarks that are still standing - or long gone. 

Watch closely at the very end, and you'll see that Walters wasn't the only "time traveller" in the area. 

The video was shared over the weekend to a popular Vancouver history Facebook group, where it garnered well over a hundred comments from delighted viewers.

Walters is a skilled hand at creating these kinds of videos; he's also done a "time machine" project featuring legendary Canadian band RUSH

Vancouver Is Awesome



What are we reading? September 24, 2020

Getty Images

Each week, BIV staff will share with you some of the interesting stories we have found from around the web.


Mark Falkenberg, deputy managing editor:

Despite swift recovery from pandemic lows in some sectors, fewer than a third of Canadian small businesses are back to pre-COVID-19 sales, a new report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business finds. – Bloomberg


With plans to extend policies friendly to renewable energy, pedestrians and cyclists, Seattle, Los Angeles and other U.S. cities are taking a green approach to their pandemic recovery strategies. – Guardian


Emma Crawford Hampel, online editor:

Susan Delacourt shares her memories of John Turner. John Turner was respectful and unfailingly polite at a time when male politicians could be patronizing, even crude, to women reporters. – Toronto Star