Ontario’s Liberal government is planning to allow liquor sales in grocery stores — but only through the existing liquor monopoly.
Finance Minister Charles Sousa announced Tuesday the province is launching a pilot project that will see seven "LCBO Express" locations open in grocery stores across the province, for a trial run that will last a year. The stores will sell beer, wine and spirits.
Stores will have to apply to have one of the kiosks installed, and the government will select from among the applicants. Any store that wants to participate will need at least 2,000 square feet of space to devote to the store-within-a-store.
Some observers have suggested the move amounts to jockeying for position ahead of an expected provincial election. Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak has said he supports privatization of Ontario’s liquor retail distribution.
The governing Liberals have repeatedly rejected privatization, but hinted at an expansion of LCBO locations in late 2012.
The Ontario Convenience Stores Association, an industry group that has been pushing for an end to the LCBO and Beer Store monopolies, said the provincial Liberals' move isn't enough.
"While it is refreshing to see the Ontario government agree that more convenience is needed in alcohol retailing, the elephant that's still in the room is the 87-year-old foreign-owned Beer Store and the near monopoly it still has on beer retailing," CEO Dave Bryans said in a statement.
"The handful of kiosks planned in this pilot program aren't likely to go far enough to satisfy the demands of consumers," he added.
This story has been updated from its original version. It has been edited to include details of Minister Sousa's statement and response from the Ontario Convenience Stores Association.
<a href="http://thewalrus.ca/under-the-influence/" target="_hplink">Canada is a beer nation</a>, so it's a relief that those symbolic 2-4's will still be available for Victoria Day. <a href="http://www.thebeerstore.ca/" target="_hplink">The Beer Store</a> duly obliges in offering customers over 350 types of beer, and some select locations will have extended hours on Sunday. (Check your local store for details.)
Several branches of the <a href="http://www.thewineshops.com/index.php" target="_hplink">Vineyard Estates have now converted their name under the banner of the Wine Shop.</a>, and some locations will be open through Monday, so check the stores near you.
<a href="http://www.beerstoredelivery.ca/" target="_hplink">Dial-A-Bottle delivers everything from beer to liquor to cigarettes and pop</a> to people’s doorsteps in various locations across Southern Ontario, but LCBO spokeswoman Heather MacGregor said those service providers also get supplies from places like the LCBO. “What that looks like, what type of product is available, what types of lines they’ll encounter will be the same for them as it will be for everyone else,” she said.
With <a href="http://www.winerack.com/home/" target="_hplink">more than 160 stores mainly in Southern Ontario</a> and other outlets located in North Bay, Sudbury, Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie, the Wine Rack announced that it would remain open leading up to and during the labour strike. Thirty Wine Rack locations will be open on Monday in tourism designated locations across the province.
While the <a href="http://steamwhistle.ca/homedelivery/index.php" target="_hplink">Steam Whistle brewery</a> is located in the heart of the downtown Toronto, customers from Hamilton to Oshawa, and as far north as Aurora and Whitchurch-Stouffville can get home delivery of bottles, cans, and draught kegs made all week long. The Toronto brewery remains open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, while closing at 5 p.m. on Sunday. Free complimentary beers are still available through the weekend and on Monday when the brewery is open from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. with tours offered every half hour.
Mill St. Brewery
<a href="http://www.millstreetbrewery.com/" target="_hplink">Mill St. Brewery</a> underwent an expansion of its Toronto Distillery district location earlier this year and added The Beer Hall. Customers can go to its retail store at the same location this weekend, open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday. The Brew Pub remains open until late for those looking to come back for more later on in the night. The Brew Pub also has an <a href="http://ottawa.millstreetbrewpub.ca/" target="_hplink">Ottawa location,</a> which is also open through Monday.
Situated near the U.S. border, the <a href="http://www.tapsbeer.ca/blog/taps-on-queen-beer-list/" target="_hplink">Taps Brewing Company in Niagara Falls</a> brews on site and offers a variety of natural beers starting at only $4.65 a pint. They are open throughout Victoria Day weekend, from 12 p.m. to midnight on Sunday, and from 12 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Monday.
Old Credit Brewing Co.
<a href="http://www.ontariocraftbrewers.com/brewery.php?brewery=oldcredit#aboutbeer" target="_hplink">The Old Credit Brewing Co. Ltd in Mississauga</a> crafts three distinct beers — Amber Ale, Pale Pilsner and Holiday Honey — in small batches and is open on Sunday and Monday from 12 pm. to 5 p.m. On Tuesdays to Saturdays, the brewery at 6 Queen St. West is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
<a href="http://amsterdambeer.com/contact-us/" target="_hplink">Amsterdam Brewery</a> was recently presented with six trophies, including the <a href="http://amsterdambeer.com/the-results-are-in-2013-ontario-brewing-awards/" target="_hplink">Gold award, and Beer of the Year for its Spring Bock brew, at the 10th Annual Ontario Brewing Awards</a>. Its retail operations will remain open over the course of the weekend, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday.
<a href="http://clocktowerbrewhouse.sitebenefits.com/Home/tabid/107820/Default.aspx" target="_hplink">The Clocktower Brewhouse</a> consists of a main brewery and four restaurants around Ottawa that are all open over the weekend holiday, from 10:00 a.m. to 2 a.m. on the weekend and 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. throughout the week and on Victoria Day. However, a spokesman says that the hours could extend later.
Another brewery located on the U.S. border — this one with Detroit — the <a href="http://www.walkervillebrewery.com/" target="_hplink">Walkerville Brewery</a>’s retail outlets in Windsor are open from Thursdays to Saturday from 11 a.m to 7 p.m. On Sundays, they will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The brewers are legally allowed to open from 9 a.m. and operate until 11 p.m. because they are located in a tourism-heavy district, but they have yet to decide whether to open on Victoria Day.