Fri. Jun 21st, 2024

Ontario consumers will soon be able to buy beer, wine and coolers at convenience and big box stores, in addition to grocery stores.

Premier Doug Ford announced Thursday that up to 8,500 new stores will be allowed to sell alcohol by 2026, fulfilling a long-time campaign promise first made by the Progressive Conservatives during the 2018 election campaign.

“This expanded marketplace will give people more choice, more convenience, and more time,” Ford said at a news conference in Etobicoke. “Folks, we all have busy lives. So just imagine on a Friday night in December, instead of being stuck in a long lineup at the LCBO, you’ll be able head to your local convenience store or grab a bottle of wine at a local retailer … before heading out to the holiday party.”

“Folks, I’ll tell you this is extremely, extremely popular. Right across our province.”

Beginning no later than January 2026, individuals will be able to purchase beer, wine, cider, coolers, seltzers and “other low-alcohol ready-to-drink beverages” at participating retailers. Officials say this includes all convenience stores, including those located at gas stations.

These retailers will have to adhere to the same rules set by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, which says that retailers can sell booze between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., regardless of the hours they are open.

Spirits like vodka, gin and whisky will continue to be sold exclusively at the LCBO.

The Ontario government will not be renewing an agreement with owners of The Beer Store, which prevented alcohol from being sold in other stores — with the exception of 450 grocery stores across the province.

The Master Framework Agreement, which was originally signed in 2015, will expire on Dec. 31, 2025. The Ford government previously tried to axe the deal with The Beer Store but backed down after learning it could cost hundreds of millions of dollars to break the contract.

The government said The Beer Store will still sell beer in the new competitive marketplace and will remain a major distributor of beer to retailers, bars and restaurants until at least 2031. Under this agreement they will be able to set their own distribution charges as well as minimum delivery volumes for orders placed by retailers.

It will also maintain its recycling and deposit program. Officials say the government will continue consulting with owners on the future of these programs after the new agreement expires in five years.

It’s unclear what will happen with The Beer Store after 2031.


The province is also ending The Beer Store’s monopoly on selling large packs of beer. All retailers will now be able to sell 12-packs, 24-packs or 30-packs.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford attends a press availability at a convenience store in Toronto, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Competitive pricing will be introduced to all private retailers, although minimum pricing policies will remain in effect. Officials noted that LCBO stores will have to maintain consistent pricing across the province.

The province noted they expect some LCBO stores will lose sales to private retailers, however they will also remain the exclusive wholesale provider for all bars and restaurants selling alcohol.

Few details have been provided regarding the permit process for private retailers, although officials said the province’s Smart Serve requirements will remain in place.

No details were provided regarding how much these changes will cost the government.

In a statement, the CEO of The Beer Store said he was looking forward “to the next stage in The Beer Store’s evolution.”

“For nearly a century, The Beer Store has been serving the people of Ontario through its world class distribution, recycling and retail network,” Roy Benin said.

“With today’s announcement, we look forward to the next stage in The Beer Store’s evolution, where our role as primary distributor, recycling steward and responsible retailer are preserved and poised for growth.”

When asked about further AGCO enforcement, the premier said that convenient stores are already selling age-specific items such as tobacco and lottery tickets in a safe and responsible way, and he anticipates alcohol sales to be done similarly.

“We need to treat the people of Ontario like adults and that’s what we are doing. They have a responsibility to drink responsibly,” Ford said.

An additional $10 million over five years will also be spent on supporting “public health efforts to ensure alcohol continues to be sold and consumed safely in the expanded marketplace” amid advocates’ concerns.


The province announced a number of “transitional and time-limited” supports for local producers of alcohol, including extending dedicated shelf space across all new retailers for craft products.

The Progressive Conservatives will also enhance the Vinters Quality Alliance (VQA) Wine Support Program for another give years, direct the LCBO to promote and prioritize Ontario-made products, establish a wine and grape industry sector table and introduce legislation that will eliminate a 6.1 per cent wine basic tax at on-site winery retail stores.

Small brewers will also have more flexibility in their own distribution. They can choose to go through The Beer Store, or they can be responsible for their own circulation.

It’s unclear how many local retailers will take advantage of these new rules. In July, CTV News Toronto reported that some grocers, who were allowed to sell wine and beer since 2015, have quietly pulled products off the shelves.

Under the rules, retailers had to keep their sales margins between two and 6.99 per cent in order to take part in the deal, however Retail Council of Canada spokesperson Michelle Wasylyshen said at the time that most large grocers in Ontario could only maintain an average margin of 2.2 per cent.

“It’s always been really tight for them. But now it’s actually physically a loss, they are selling these products at a loss and it’s not sustainable.”

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