01/30/2016 07:00 EST | Updated 01/30/2017 00:12 EST

Hudak wants Ontario distillers treated the same as wineries, brewers

TORONTO — An Opposition member of the legislature is seeking to change Ontario's liquor laws so small distillers are treated the same as craft brewers and wineries.

Tim Hudak says there are dozens of wineries in his Niagara-area riding that can sell a glass of VQA wine to people before they make a purchase at an on-site store, and breweries have the same option for their customers.

The wineries and brewers can also ship products directly to bars and restaurants without going through the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.

But Hudak says Ontario's "backwards and outdated" liquor laws prohibit distillers from selling customers a drink on site, and also force them to ship their products to the LCBO for distribution to bars and restaurants.

A distiller keeps about $10 from a bottle of gin that retails for $33.50 at the LCBO, and Hudak says there should be a "stepped" taxation system that lowers what he calls the "punishing government markups" for the smaller distillers.

He says there's been an explosion of small distillers in the United States, and worries Ontario's antiquated laws are discouraging a similar growth in the sector here.

"It's a punishing tax and the result is small ones won't grow and hire more people, and other start-ups will never happen," Hudak said in an interview. "We made changes that allowed direct delivery of wine to restaurants. Why can't we do the same for distillers?"

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The Canadian Press