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Ontario restaurants, bars want "off sales" of beer for home consumption

TORONTO - The people who own restaurants, bars and pubs in Ontario have an idea to give consumers another option to buy beer — so-called "off sales" from their establishments.The industry group Restaurants Canada says six provinces, including Quebec and British Columbia, already allow restaurants and bars to sell beer for home consumption as part of their liquor licences.Restaurants Canada vice-president James Rilett says staff in restaurants and bars are trained to sell alcoholic beverages, and calls the idea of "off sales" a natural evolution in Ontario's retail system.Rilett says "off sales" would also mean wider distribution for craft and micro brewers who complain about their limited access to the LCBO and Beer Store.The Liberal government has already made it clear the spring budget will include changes to the way beer and wine are sold in Ontario.Premier Kathleen Wynne ruled out the idea of selling beer and wine in corner stores, but signalled some grocery stores will be granted licences.A spokeswoman for Finance Minister Charles Sousa says the government has been open about its concerns around the issue of fairness surrounding the beer distribution system in Ontario."We believe there is an opportunity to improve customer convenience and ensure there is a wide range of brands available to Ontarians, while doing so in a socially responsible manner," Kelsey Ingram said in an email on Monday.Restaurants Canada suggested the "off sales" option in a presentation to the special advisory panel on government assets headed by former TD Bank Chair Ed Clark."Craft beer and microbrews were the No. 1 hot trend in the Restaurants Canada 2015 Chef Survey," said Rilett. "Food items are increasingly being paired with craft beverages, which has helped to grow the trend."Ontario Craft Brewers have asked the government to allow them 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, and idea Wynne said was under consideration.However, the premier said she wants to wait until Clark's report to the government before making any decisions on how spirits, wine and beer should be sold.

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