Beer and wine may be on sale at an Ontario supermarket near you
WATCH: A report suggests that the Ontario government will expand beer and wine sales into large grocery stores. Sean Mallen reports.
TORONTO – Supermarkets in Ontario may finally be allowed to sell beer and wine to their customers in the near future.
A report in the Toronto Star cites sources saying the Liberal government is eager to loosen the quasi-monopoly held by the Beer Store and, in turn, offer hundreds of Ontario supermarkets the ability to stock their shelves with alcohol.
Sources tell the Star the move will likely be announced in the upcoming spring budget.
“It’s incumbent on us as a government to ensure that those sectors we have some authority over or regulatory authority over, that Ontario consumers benefit from opportunities to update the consumer experience,” Ontario Minister of Economic Development Brad Duguid told reporters at Queen’s Park Friday.
WATCH: Ontario Minister of Economic Development Brad Duguid explains his party’s position on alcohol in grocery stores.
Duguid says the province will wait on a report from former TD Bank CEO Ed Clark before moving ahead with the idea.
Clark was appointed by Premier Kathleen Wynne to examine the relationship between the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and The Beer Store as part of a review aimed at squeezing the maximum value out of all government assets.
“We are certainly enthusiastic about that opportunity and we’ll see what the details are when Ed Clark reports to us,” Duguid said.
“I like the idea of making sure and always possible modernizing the customer experience.”
Randy Robinson, a spokesperson for OPSEU, the union that represents LCBO workers, said the expansion, as reported, would be the biggest since 1927. And he said, there will be ill effects that comes along with that.
“It’s called the Liquor Control Board of Ontario for a reason. It’s not liquor sales primarily, it’s regulation of liquor,” he said. “We don’t want to see a massive expansion of sales while at the same time controlling the ill effects of alcohol.”
Wynne said last month the province is preparing changes to the way alcoholic beverages are sold but it will still not permit beer sales in corner stores.
But Tom Barlow, the president and CEO of the Federation of Independent Grocers, said if the government wants to sell booze in grocery stores, it should be in all grocery stores.
“We don’t believe it’s the government decision to decide who the winners and losers will be. We believe not given a fair choice, our guys will be at a huge competitive disadvantage,” he said.
The Star reports that beer and wine would be displayed in a defined area or aisle of a large supermarket, but not cordoned off from other food and beverages.
However, distilled spirits and hard liquor such as vodka and whiskey will continue to be sold at government-owned LCBO stores.
The prices for alcoholic beverages would remain the same across all retail stores.
NDP MPP Gilles Bisson said the alcohol distribution system should remain as is and his party would not support a move to have grocery stores stock up on booze.
“I think we have to have a certain responsibility when it comes to access,” said Bisson.
“New Democrats have always believed we have a robust system that provides access to the public to provide beer, wine and spirits in our LCBO and beer stores.”
Meanwhile, sources tell the Star The Beer Store could continue to operate its outlets across Ontario but would now have to start paying a “franchise fee” of as much as $100 million a year.
The Beer Store refused comment on the story Friday, except to say “the process is not complete.”
The future of the Wine Rack and the Wine Shop, which are currently located in certain supermarkets, may also have their operations restructured.
There are currently 268 wine outlets in supermarkets across Ontario.
Beer and wine sales are a $5 billion a year business in Ontario.
With a file from The Canadian Press