TORONTO, ON – In its final day of sitting before starting a 5-month recess, the Ontario Government today passed a bill introduced last week to scrap the Master Framework Agreement (MFA) between the province and The Beer Store, a move that is being touted as a big step towards allowing beer sales in corner stores and big box retailers.
While the bill has passed Third Reading in the legislature and received Royal Assent from the Lieutenant Governor, it has not yet been proclaimed into law by the government. Until this occurs, the MFA remains in effect, limiting the expansion of beer retail sales in Ontario to the scope allowed by that contract, and avoiding any financial penalties that the government may incur for breaking the agreement.
Working within the existing framework, Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli announced this afternoon that almost 300 new retail outlets will be given approval to sell beer and other alcoholic beverages in Ontario, including:
- 87 new grocery store licenses allowing the sale of beer, cider, and wine starting in September 2019. This will bring the total number of licensed grocery outlets to the 450 maximum defined in the MFA.
- An expansion of the LCBO Convenience Outlet program (previously called LCBO Agency Stores) to include 200 additional private retailers in areas under-served by existing LCBO stores. 60 new locations are planned to be in operation by August 2019, with up to 90 more to follow in December 2019, and the remainder by Spring 2020.
At the same time, The Beer Store has released a statement in response to the passing of the bill, which includes the following quote:
The Beer Store believes that there is a mutually acceptable path to significantly accelerating the introduction of new retail locations for beer in Ontario while minimizing consumer beer price increases, minimizing incremental beer industry costs, and retaining as much government tax revenue as possible. Most importantly, these amendments would avoid a protracted legal battle and the significant damages to which the government would be exposed.