Pre-mixed drinks, 30-packs are coming to Ontario grocery, big-box stores

Ontarians will soon be able to buy alcoholic drinks like coolers outside of the LCBO, as the Ford government expands on where booze can be bought in the province.

The government announced on Friday it is rolling out a phased approach to expand where consumers can buy alcohol, and adding more selection of beverages throughout the summer and fall of 2024.

Starting on Aug. 1, right before the Civic Holiday long weekend, Ontarians will be able to buy products like coolers and other ready-to-drink beverages at the 450 grocery stores currently licensed to sell beer, cider and wine.

Also, grocery stores will start offering large-pack products like the 30-pack case of beer — a popular choice in Quebec, the government said.

After Sept. 5, all eligible convenience stores will be able to sell beer, cider, wine and ready-to-drink beverages. After Oct. 31, all eligible big-box stores will be able to sell those same beverages, including in large pack sizes, the government added.

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New retailers will also be able to sell an increased selection of local, domestic and international alcohol products, the province said.

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“We are delivering on our commitment to give consumers in Ontario the choice and convenience every other Canadian enjoys and we’re doing so even sooner than we had originally promised,” said Premier Doug Ford in a news release.

Originally, Ford had promised last December that alcohol would be sold in corner stores by 2026.

“In the coming weeks and months, people in Ontario, like many Canadians across the country, will have the option to responsibly and conveniently purchase a case of beer or a bottle of wine on their way up to the cottage or to a summer barbecue, all while having even more opportunity to support local Ontario breweries and wineries,” Ford said.

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“They’re excited to hear that they’re finally being treated as adults.”

Meanwhile, the government said it is providing The Beer Store with up to $225 million to make “necessary investments” over the next 19 months. This includes funding to protect jobs and keep locations open for provincewide recycling availability and bottle return until at least 2031.

The Beer Store reacted to Ford’s announcement and said that it looks “forward to the next stage of The Beer Store’s evolution.”

Today is a significant milestone, reaffirming The Beer Store’s crucial role as the primary distributor of beer in Ontario. This announcement underscores our commitment to responsible beer distribution and environmental stewardship,” said CEO Roy Benin.

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The LCBO will remain a public asset and be the exclusive provider of hard liquors such as vodka, gin and whiskey.

“Over time, this new, more open marketplace will introduce up to 8,500 new stores where consumers can purchase these products, the largest expansion of consumer choice and convenience since the end of prohibition almost 100 years ago,” the government said.

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