Alberta bar owners unimpressed with booze tax, minimum wage bump

CALGARY — Some Alberta bar owners aren’t happy with what they were served by the province in its budget this week.

CALGARY — Some Alberta bar owners aren’t happy with what they were served by the province in its budget this week.

They got a double-shot of a minimum wage increase and bumped-up booze taxes.

Bruce MacKenzie, owner of one Calgary pub, says the costs will have to be passed on to customers.

But he says with neighbourhood pubs like his, the customers can’t afford a 20 per cent increase in their bill.

The new taxes announced in Tuesday’s budget will see wine prices jump 75 cents a bottle, liquor $2.85 a bottle and $1.30 for a 12-pack of beer.

MacKenzie calls it “a catastrophic raise.”

“In 30 years of being in this business, I’ve never seen the sin tax raised this high, especially in recessionary times.”

The hike amounts to a bitter swallow for restaurateur Al Browne, who couldn’t help but recall how the industry thought booze prices would drop back when liquor stores were privatized in the 1990s.

“Who puts through a 17 per cent raise on any commodity at a time when people are losing their jobs and who do think is going to pay that?” said Browne, who owns two Hooters restaurants in Calgary.

“We’re going to have to raise the price to the consumer it’s small business that makes Alberta work and yet the small business guy gets attacked at every corner.”

Particularly galling to business owners is the fact the upped sin tax arrived merely a week after the province implemented a 40-cent minimum wage increase to $8.80 an hour.

“I own four restaurants in Alberta — in each restaurant, if I were to absorb all of that or if I don’t lay people off, it would cost me a minimum of $12,000 a store or $48,000 a year,” said Browne.

“I would like to see which one of the MLAs will say, ‘I will take a $48,000 decline a year to help balance the budget in Alberta.’ ”

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