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Overpriced wine in Toronto (moved from Ontario board)

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I haven't done a scientific survey, but my impression is that wine in Toronto restos is really overpriced, relative to what you find just about anywhere else in North America (let alone wine-producing countries in Europe). A lot of bistro-type places with reasonable food prices have little or nothing under $40, and what you get for $45 would go at the LCBO for $12. Anybody else fed up with this, or is it just me? And what are your nominations for worst offenders/bright lights? Places I get annoyed at include: Tati, Delux and Bar Mercurio. Surprisingly good: Cava, where we had a nice albarino that couldn't have been much over 2x list price.

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Cava
1560 Yonge St., Toronto, ON M4T 2S9, CA

Bar Mercurio
270 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S1V8, CA

Delux
92 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON M6J2Z4, CA

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  1. If you really want to get indignant, go to Morton's or a McEwen restaurant. Even with the 30$ (last time I went a couple of years ago) corkage at Morton's, bringing in a bottle that already cost 30$ at the lcbo will still save you over 60$.

    You might try doing a search here for corkage specials and prices. Many places will have nights when they have nominal or waived corkage fees to bring in traffic.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Snarf

      +1 on that answer. if you just have to have wine with your meal, only give your business to restaurants that offer reasonable corkage... and bring wine you bought in the U.S. of course. LCBO does not deserve your money.

      1. re: TexSquared

        "if you just have to have wine with your meal"

        My god, as a chowhound, is this even an option?! Le vin est un aliment!

        1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

          Bring your own and pay the corkage, or only pay for wine with a meal when outside Ontario.

    2. Problem is the LCBO itself. 200-400% markup is typical, but the problem is the LCBO (nor Brewer's Retail) does not offer volume discounts/wholesale pricing. The restaurants are paying them the same price we would, and have to markup from there.

      Our strategy, to spite both the restaurateurs and the LCBO, is that we do not buy alcohol in this province, either at restaurants or at retail. We'll just get the tap water with ice and lemon with our meals. We'll have our wine waiting for us at home in the fridge if needed; only bought in the U.S. usually at Supermarket Liquors and Wines in Niagara Falls, NY, or Sam's Club (if we're not in NY state).

      They may have lowered their prices in response to customer outrage, but as a matter of principle I will NEVER set foot in Harbour 60 after they got away with 500% markups for over ten years. They lost me for life with that stunt which they seemed to be all too proud of.

      2 Replies
      1. re: TexSquared

        I think the Ontario’s Liquor Licence Act prohibits volume discounting. Some crap about Social Responsibility.

        Unfortunately, your strategy to not buy alcholol in Ontario is not pratical for most of us unless we're going out of country practically every week or else drink very little. What we generally try to do is dine at restaurants that allow BYOW but many restaurants don't do this and have no incentive since most patrons don't care about this.

        1. re: TexSquared

          I also go to supermarket liquors, but the Premier group in Niagara falls has superior selection.

        2. Yes, true in general, except once in a while, you can find some wine that is cheaper than getting it at LCBO.

          1. What about the markup on Liquor? Tea, Coffee, pop,food... in most all restaurants markups are 30-40% on everything.. they have to pay staff, taxes, insurance, rent, waste, garbage ... if you do not want to pay stay home.. cook your own food.. I know of one restaurant on King West that pays $35,000 per month in rent (including Tax) and this is not one of those huge clubs it only has about 80 seats.. try making that amount without a 40% markup...

            USA has it lucky they have very little taxes on Alcohol. When youship a bottle of Rye from Windsor to the US the manufacturer gets the Tax back. That is why you can buy Canadian rye in the us for 1/3 what we pay.. but when you go to a good restaurant a rye and coke is still 6$ they markup has to be 300% on spirits...

            7 Replies
            1. re: RogerDoger

              "in most all restaurants markups are 30-40% on everything"

              Which is perfectly fair. They mark up the food like that; obviously I could go to the supermarket and buy the ingredients and make the same food for 30-40% less. You pay a premium for the convenience of not having to shop for the ingredients, prep them, cook them, and plate them. If the prices are fair to me for what I'm getting and I like the food of course I'll give them my business. That wasn't the problem.

              The OP's complaint is on wine and liquor, where the markup is in the 200-400% range (500% at Harbour 60). That's a huge profit margin for minimal effort (go to cellar, get wine, extract cork, pour), compared to the effort needed to prepare the meal.

              1. re: TexSquared

                I'm not challenging if a 200-400% mark is fair or not, but you there are some potential things missing from your minimal effort list. Some restaurants train staff, provide glasswear and cover breakage, provide decanters, have a sommelier on staff, and have large amounts of inventory sitting in a cellar potentially going bad. I wonder how much the inventory at Barberians is worth and how much that could be generating for them if it was invested elsewhere.
                As Far as the LCBO, I'm under the impression people are actually happy with the shopping experience and being taxed in this manner. We could always do away with the LCBO and have the government just increase our taxes in some other way.

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                Barberian's
                7 Elm St, Toronto, ON M5G1H1, CA

                1. re: dubchild

                  Getting OT here but here's my opinion. Nobody is forced to shop at the LCBO just as nobody is forced to gamble at a government casino. To me, giving either of them your business is like voluntarily paying more taxes. So I refuse to do so. Simple as that. In the same way I try to avoid purchasing dairy and poultry in this province since I do not want to support the food cartels which keep those things priced artificially high.

                  The only thing I get from the LCBO is their catalogs in the mail, which I bring with me to the U.S. to compare prices and see how much you get ripped off at home. I see a lot of others at Supermarket Liquors in Niagara Falls carrying those Vintages lists with them....

                  1. re: TexSquared

                    My guess, not that I'm judging, is that for this to worth your while, you don't pay duties when you bring wine across the border. I once went a little crazy with beer purchases at Premier Gourmet and was a little shocked by the amount I had to pay in duties.

                    1. re: dubchild

                      I only bring in liquor if I'm out of the country more than 48 hours... 1.5 litres per person, two people in the car, that's 4 bottles of wine. We've often stretched it to 6 bottles total, declare it all, and still get waved on since it's not worth it for them to pull us over just to tax 1 additional bottle each.

                    2. re: TexSquared

                      I've also seen fraudulent looking bottles (misspelled French labels on supposedly first, second, third growth Bordeaux) at several privately owned liquor stores across New York, New Jersey and California. Of course the LCBO is a rip off, but it does have it's advantages. Things are not always the bargain they seem...

                      1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                        OK, have to ask, did you see counterfeit Bordeaux at Premier Gourmet or Supermarket Liquors? I doubt Sam's Club would sell counterfeit wines since Walmart would be a very attractive lawsuit target if they tried....

              2. Yeah, I know they have to recoup their costs somehow, but I'd much rather it was evened out, or mostly on the food. The wine isn't where the labour costs are, or the skill, and it isn't what I choose restaurants for. On the other hand it would really take away from the enjoyment, for me, to have just a glass of water with a nice bistro meal. So I end up feeling suckered in and ripped off just about every time....

                1 Reply
                1. re: edina

                  Snarf has the best solution, give your business to places that let you bring your own and charge a fair price for corkage.