Alcohol sales coming to Ontario corner stores in September

Ontario is introducing sales of beer, wine and prepared cocktails at additional convenience stores and supermarkets 16 months ahead of schedule, a move that will see the province pay up to $225 million to The Beer Store.

Retailers, including convenience stores and gas stations, will be able to start selling low-alcohol drinks starting September 4. The process to apply for a license from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) will open on June 17. says the province.

Similarly, the 450 grocery stores across the province that already have beer and wine licenses will be able to sell ready-to-drink cocktails on August 1.

All other supermarkets and grocery stores will be able to sell beer, wine, cider and canned spirits starting October 31.

Retail establishments participating in the government’s expansion of where alcohol will be available for purchase will be able to sell any size pack of beer, including 30-packs. They will also be able to set their own prices, although the province has regulated minimums.

Premier Doug Ford and Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy announced the impending changes at a news conference in Etobicoke on Friday morning.

“Just a few months ago we were talking together about our plan to give people more choice and more convenience when purchasing beer, cider, wine and other alcoholic beverages in Ontario. The response from the public, from stakeholders, from small businesses has been overwhelmingly positive,” Ford said Friday.

“That’s because our plan will create new growth opportunities for local brewers, wineries, retailers and small businesses. It will support local jobs and, most importantly, give people more choice and convenience,” he added.

SEE | Ford on ending The Beer Store’s quasi-monopoly on beer sales:

The ‘monopoly’ of three big breweries is over, says Ford

Premier Doug Ford announced Friday that the province will introduce the sale of beer, wine and prepared cocktails at corner stores and other supermarkets sooner than expected.

The provincial government’s strategy to “modernize” the alcohol market was first released last December, but was not supposed to come into effect until 2026.

That timeline was due in part to the province’s Master Framework Agreement (MFA) with the multinational brewing conglomerates that own The Beer Store, which currently has a near-monopoly on the distribution and sale of beer in Ontario.

The MFA, a 10-year agreement signed by the previous Liberal government, gave The Beer Store exclusive rights to sell 12- and 24-packs of beer as the province expanded beer and wine sales to grocery stores. It was scheduled to expire in 2025.

Money for The Beer Store will be audited: Ford

In a technical media briefing Friday, Finance Ministry officials said the province’s $225 million will help The Beer Store maintain jobs, an evolved retail footprint and offset the costs of an accelerated timeline for beer sales. in more locations across Ontario.

Ford disputed the claim that the money will go to the companies that jointly own The Beer Store, although the agreement specifies that “the province will reimburse TBS” for additional costs up to that amount.

“We’re not going to give it to the Molsons of the world or the Labatts, so they can put the money in their pockets and say, ‘See you later,'” Ford said.

“So that’s not accurate. What we’re doing is supporting the frontline workers at The Beer Store… We’ll be audited every step of the way, to make sure it’s distributed in the right fashion.”

Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy said the money “will help maintain beer stores that may not be profitable.”

“This is part of the agreement to undo that 10-year monopoly that the previous government, the Liberal government, signed,” he said.

“It is always about having as orderly a transition as possible, minimizing interruptions and giving the opportunity to adapt to the new world.”

Several former Ford government employees are now lobbying on behalf of breweries, supermarkets and convenience stores.

Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie said the announcement is proof the prime minister gives preference to insiders.

“Grocery billionaires and multinational corporations are the only winners in this latest secret deal,” he wrote in a statement.

“When is Doug going to stop spending taxpayer money on his corporate friends and start making life more affordable for Ontarians?”

Ford denied that any lobbying was a factor in his decision to accelerate the expansion of alcohol.

SEE | CBC Toronto breaks down the latest alcohol news in Ontario:

Alcohol sales to expand to some Ontario corner stores in September

Doug Ford’s government is speeding up the timeline to allow the province’s convenience stores to sell alcohol. As CBC’s Lorrenda Reddekopp reports, Ontario is also giving Beer Store owners more than $200 million as part of the deal.

The Beer Store will also remain the largest wholesale distributor of beer in the province and will run its recycling program until 2031. Starting in 2026, any retail establishment selling alcohol with more than 4,000 square feet of retail space will be required to accept it is empty, it says the province.

Meanwhile, the LCBO will remain the only retailer selling high-alcohol spirits like gin and whiskey, and will be the only wholesaler of alcohol in the province. Retailers entering the space as a result of the expansion will get an interim 10 percent wholesale discount off the base LCBO retail price through 2026.

8,500 new locations are expected: Ministry of Finance

The ministry estimates there will be about 8,500 new locations where consumers can purchase low-alcohol products, giving Ontario the third-highest density of alcohol retail stores among provinces, behind only Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec.

Ontario will be the third jurisdiction in Canada to offer beer in convenience stores and the first to sell ready-to-drink cocktails in those locations.

The AGCO will be responsible for licensing retailers and the government says the expansion will come with tougher penalties for violations. Retailers whose licenses are revoked will not be able to reapply for two years.

The government is allocating an additional $10 million over five years to support social responsibility, but a coalition of public health and advocacy organizations has called on the province to develop a comprehensive alcohol strategy to reduce harm.

The coalition, which includes the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Canadian Cancer Society, says alcohol-related harm costs Ontario more than $7 billion a year, and the last time alcohol access was expanded In the province, the number of alcohol-related emergency department visits rose.

In a statement, the Toronto Center for Addiction and Mental Health said it was disappointed that the Ford government “has chosen convenience over the health and well-being of Ontarians.”

“There are already more than 6,000 alcohol-attributable deaths annually in Ontario, and the changes announced today will significantly increase this number,” the hospital said.

“The main driver of alcohol-related harm is convenience. Decades of research show that greater ease of access leads to greater consumption and, in turn, more harm.”

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