Seizures in restaurants |  Tens of thousands of alcohol bottles destroyed

Seizures in restaurants | Tens of thousands of alcohol bottles destroyed

SAQ warehouse shelves are overflowing, an internal survey indicates discontent private import agencies and restaurant seizures are at an all-time high: 2022 has not been an easy year for the state monopoly.


Police or trustees of bars and restaurants seized more than 80,000 bottles of alcohol in Quebec in 2022, the highest volume recorded in the last five years, it was learned. Press. The vast majority of these products, sent to the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) warehouses, have been or will be destroyed.

Bankruptcies of establishments, revocation of liquor licenses, absence of seals on the bottles (mandatory for sale in bars and restaurants) are reasons that can justify seizures by the police forces or trustees in the event of insolvency.

Thus, each year, thousands of bottles of wine and other alcoholic beverages are seized and then directed to the SAQ warehouse, which acts as “custodian”. Last year, however, it upset all forecasts: 84,580 bottles were thus obtained, according to a provisional estimate calculated at the beginning of December, obtained after a request for access to information.

Destruction: that is the fate that awaits most of these bottles, the state company confirms in a document. These will be destroyed in the coming months or years, depending on the ruling.


At the Association Restauration Québec (ARQ), Vice President of Public and Government Affairs Martin Vézina had a hard time explaining why the “harvest” had been so bountiful in 2022, adding in the process that the number of bankruptcies was not exploiting the last year. “Maybe there were a lot of stamping errors,” he says. After the pandemic, the police may have reverted to the traditional mode of inspections. »

What happens to the bottles that are not destroyed? “If the products come from a trustee and are fit for consumption, they can be returned to our network of branches, indicates the document provided by the Corona corporation. In no case are the bottles delivered to the SAQ offered to employees or consumed by them. »

the covers

It’s not just seizures that lead to the destruction of bottles in Quebec. Private import agencies, whose products must be stored in SAQ warehouses, have 211 days to sell them. If the bottles are not sold within this time frame, the SAQ can legally repossess them. Some, full of their content, will, however, follow the path of recycling.

This was the case with 1,200 cases of alcohol, or 14,400 bottles, that were recovered by the SAQ for the period from March 13, 2020 to December 2022. Of that figure, 700 bottles have already been destroyed, worth $20,491, confirms the state monopoly.

The bottles are destroyed by an independent company.

At SAQ we always seek to minimize our environmental footprint, which is why these products are sent directly to a recycling company specialized in the processing of alcoholic beverages.

Geneviève Cormier, SAQ spokesperson

Expired or defective products are also thrown away. “Most of the destroyed products are ready to drink, considering that they are suitable for consumption in a shorter period and the costs related to destruction are assumed by the agencies,” the spokesperson specifies.

Unlike seizures, Crown Corporation employees can purchase unsold bottles that are not powdered. “All funds generated from these sales are donated to the Entraide organization “, emphasizes M.to me cormier.

clear rules

In Quebec, in practice, a “private import” agency does not actually import alcohol. It is the SAQ who pays the winemaker and takes care of the transportation of the bottles (with some exceptions, in certain countries) from the place of production to their warehouses in Quebec.

Wine (or other alcohol) from this private importing agency can be found on the shelves of SAQ branches, in restaurants, or sold directly to agency clients. If the agent fails to sell your wine within the regulatory deadlines, for whatever reason, you have the possibility of repurchasing your merchandise to avoid being crushed. However, if he does, he will no longer be able to legally sell it.

This situation is not common. But here it is: The pandemic has rocked the alcohol trade in recent years. Restaurants were closed, then reopened, and then closed again. Private import agencies that have restaurants as their main clients have had to review their business model or, at least, their planning.

Many also had to deal with delivery times that were complex to manage. The SAQ has given agencies a grace period, due to these exceptional circumstances, but now applies the usual rules that also provide for additional costs after 150 days of storage, costs that have more than tripled in 2021.

Despite this, since last spring there has been a traffic jam in the SAQ warehouses, with the shelves overflowing. Some agencies have thus found themselves stagnant, without stock and without the possibility of ordering new merchandise since the maximum storage capacity of the SAQ has been reached. Some are still in this situation.

Relations between the agencies and the SAQ are sometimes tense and, in general, the level of satisfaction is low. According to a survey carried out last summer among its partners, including private import agencies, the SAQ does not obtain approval in any of the evaluated criteria, obtaining a score of 47% for the commercial relationship and 54% for leadership and communication. This gives it an overall satisfaction rating of 53% of the agents for whom it is a mandatory business partner.

The state monopoly refused to pass Press Details of this survey and all agencies contacted for this story have declined to speak publicly.

With the collaboration of William Leclerc, Press


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