BUSINESS

Ontario's Craft Brewers Want More Of Their Own Stores, And Kathleen Wynne Is Listening

03/25/2015 04:00 EDT | Updated 05/25/2015 05:59 EDT
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beer flight of five sampling mugs of light and dark craft beer in a bar
TORONTO - Premier Kathleen Wynne is leaving the door open to a request from Ontario's small, independent brewers to allow them to set up more independent stores to sell their products.

Wynne says she wants to wait for a report from an expert panel headed by former TD Bank chair Ed Clark, which is looking at the province's methods for retailing alcohol, beer and wine.

However, she says giving consumers more access to different craft beers is something she's felt strongly about for years.

Wynne says Clark's recommendations will be acted on in the upcoming provincial budget, and his preliminary report released earlier suggested consumers be given more options to buy beer and wine.

Ontario Craft Brewers want the government to allow them to establish the right to open at least one off-site store per brewery and to let them sell each other's products in their existing on-site stores.

The lobby group for the craft brewers says its market share could double or triple in the next few years if consumer access is improved, creating up to 2,000 new brewery jobs.

Wynne has already ruled out selling beer and wine in convenience stores, but has suggested they will be sold in some grocery stores.

Progressive Conservative Lisa MacLeod says she doesn't understand why Wynne has already ruled out beer and wine in corner stores without waiting for Clark's recommendations.

Clark suggested The Beer Store, which is foreign-owned, should pay a fee to the government for its virtual monopoly on 80 per cent of beer sales in the province, something the big brewers warned will drive up prices.

Clark said if The Beer Store doesn't want to give Ontario taxpayers a share of its profits, then the government could auction off the right to retail beer to help raise more money to pay down the deficit or fund transit improvements.

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