Ontario’s modest LCBO kiosk plan fails to tackle 87-year-old Beer Store monopoly

However OCSA retailers agree that principle of expanded alcohol retailing a good one

The Ontario government’s alcohol retailing plan, where it will entertain opening a handful of new LCBO kiosks in grocery stores, was conspicuous for failing to break the stranglehold the foreign-owned Beer Store has on Ontario beer drinkers and the Ontario craft beer industry.  However, chain convenience store retailers did find optimism in the government’s adoption of the principle of offering consumers more convenience in alcohol retailing – something Ontarians have been asking convenience stores for great numbers – even if only a small step.

“While it is refreshing to see the Ontario government agree that more convenience is needed in alcohol retailing.  The elephant that’s still in the room is the 87 year-old foreign-owned Beer Store and the near monopoly it still has on beer retailing.  Today’s announcement leaves in place the antiquated arrangement between the Ontario government and the three foreign brewers that dictate beer sales in Ontario,” said Dave Bryans, CEO of the Ontario Convenience Stores Association.  “While we support the LCBO, the handful of kiosks planned in this pilot program aren’t likely to go far enough to satisfy the demands of consumers.”

A study of Ontarians’ attitudes towards beer sales released in December showed that seven out of 10 (69%) want to see more private retailers, like convenience stores, offer competition to The Beer Store.  The study, conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion, concluded that support for allowing private retailers to compete with both the LCBO and The Beer Store was “widespread and strong.”

“The facts are that convenience stores can and do retail alcohol responsibly and professionally. In fact, we’re already doing it at 200 locations in Ontario through the LCBO Agency Store program,” said Bryans. “Whether it’s abroad, in Quebec, or right here at home, Ontarians have seen how convenience stores are responsible alcohol retailers.”

In 2012, OCSA delivered a petition to Queen’s Park calling on the Ontario Legislature allow for more competition in beer and wine sales through convenience stores. The petition collected 112,500 names from 220 communities across the province, making it the largest single petition ever collected in Ontario.