Technical problems delay SAQ wine deliveries to Montreal restaurants

A view of an SAQ store n Westmount, March 15, 2011.
Allen McInnis / Montreal Gazette files

More than 900 Montreal-area restaurants and bars are facing lengthy delays in their wine and liquor shipments because of a computer glitch in a new system that was just set up by the Société des alcools du Québec.

Many downtown restaurants were already running low on supplies a week after last weekend’s busy Grand Prix, and they don’t know when they will be getting their next deliveries from the SAQ.

“It’s not a pretty situation,” said Sindie Goineau, sommelière of Chez Victoire on Mont-Royal Ave. E.

“I haven’t received a phone call or email from the SAQ. We’ve been kept in the dark.”

Located in the Plateau Mont-Royal, Chez Victoire is still well-stocked with Bordeaux and other wines. The problem is that the restaurant depends on private imported wines that are not sold at SAQ outlets – and those bottles are not being delivered, Goineau explained.

Anne-Sophie Hamel, a spokesperson for the SAQ, was unable to say when delivery service will return to normal.

“It’s not an ideal situation,” she said. “There’s been a technical problem in the software. It’s the type of problem that has affected other warehouses.”

In a statement on its website, the provincial Crown corporation attributed the delays to a new distribution system.

“At the beginning of the week, the SAQ replaced its systems that manage the operational activities of its (Montreal distribution centres) with a more modern and evolving technological solution,” the statement said.

“Following the deployment of this new management system, certain difficulties were identified in terms of delivery to restaurateurs, bar holders and other licensees served … in the greater Montreal area. This is a very exceptional situation, resulting from this large-scale implementation which will allow the SAQ to obtain increased operational flexibility in its centres.”

In the meantime, SAQ teams are scrambling to ensure that the service returns as quickly as possible. The SAQ is also contacting affected businesses and has notified the Association des restaurateurs du Québec.

Hamel noted permit holders can purchase alcohol at select SAQ outlets. As for private imported wines, she said the SAQ is expediting the delivery of such shipments.

Although Goineau said that she still hasn’t received her wine, she’s heard from other restaurateurs that the SAQ is making deliveries on Saturday – something that it doesn’t normally do.

In its 2016-2017 annual report, the SAQ reported sales of $3.12 billion, and remitted to the Quebec government $1.08 billion in the form of a dividend.