TORONTO, ON – In a press conference held earlier today at Queen’s Park, Premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynne confirmed details of the upcoming changes to the province’s beer retailing system.
Touted as the “biggest change since the repeal of prohibition,” the changes are based on the recommendations of a report prepared by Ed Clark, chair of the Premier’s Advisory Council on Government Assets.
Key points in the plan include:
Expanding beer sales to 450 grocery store locations in the province, to be phased in starting in late 2015, with the following stipulations:
- Sales will be limited to six-packs and smaller formats;
- Hours of sale will be restricted to the same times as other alcohol sales in the province;
- Beer will only be displayed in a designated section of each store, and all staff will be properly certified and fully trained for alcohol sales.
Entering into a new “Beer Framework Agreement” with the owners of The Beer Store that will include:
- opening up ownership to small brewers;
- creating a new craft category to better profile craft beer, and devoting 20% of shelf space to beers in the category;
- extending the Ontario Deposit Return Program beyond 2017;
- capping price increases to inflation on the most popular beer brands at The Beer Store for the next two years.
Mandating that prices for beer brands sold at The Beer Store, the LCBO and grocery stores be same at all outlets.
Establishing an online e-commerce site for alcohol sales, with options for pick-up and local LCBO outlets and home delivery.
Opening boutiques similar to the LCBO’s existing Vintages wine sections that are focused on other niche products, such as specialty beer and whisky.
Piloting the sale of 12-packs of beer at 10 select LCBO locations, with the possibility of expanding to up to 220 locations.
Appointing a special Ombudsman that will address consumer and brewery concerns about Ontario’s beer retailing sector.
Not addressed in today’s announcement was recent request from the Ontario Craft Brewers to allow for the opening off-site retail stores and the cross-sale of beer and cider from other producers. However, in a statement released following the Premier’s press conference, the OCB indicated that it “enthusiastically welcomed today’s announcement,” and feels that “this package of fundamental changes, when fully implemented, will unlock craft brewers’ true growth potential, allowing us to quickly double or triple our direct brewery jobs.”