GET THE FACTS

There’s still some confusion about what expanding beer, wine and cider sales in Ontario really means for consumers and retailers. We’re here to bust common myths about modern alcohol sales in Ontario. We’ve created this website to educate people, help clarify misinformation and provide facts.

First, let’s start with breaking down the current model and its limitations.

WHAT WE HAVE TODAY

  • LCBO: You own it!

    The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) is an agency of the Government of Ontario, and one of the world’s largest alcohol retailers. Money made by the LCBO – $2.12 billion in 2018 – goes back to the people through investments in health care, education and infrastructure.

  • The Beer Store: They own it!

    The Beer Store is a privately-owned chain of 450 stores that control 70% of beer sales in Ontario. The Beer Store is primarily owned and controlled by three multinational corporations:

    • Molson-Coors Brewing (51% – Headquarters: Denver, Colorado)
    • Labatt-Anheuser-Busch (45% – Headquarters: Leuven, Belgium)
    • Sleeman-Sapporo (4% – Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan)

    Since 2015, 30 Ontario brewers have also been allowed to buy a small percentage of shares in The Beer Store totaling less than 1%. Molson-Coors Brewing and Labatt-Anheuser-Busch are the majority shareholders. The Beer Store is the ONLY place allowed to sell 12 or 24-packs of beer in its local markets.

  • Other Privately-Owned Retailers

    Private duty-free stores are authorized to sell alcohol at 15 Ontario airports and land border crossings.

    More than 350 privately-owned grocery stores across Ontario currently sell alcohol. They purchase their products through the LCBO.

    The LCBO’s Agency Store program allows more than 200 private retailers – usually a grocery store, general store, gas station or tourist outfitter – to sell alcohol alongside other goods in areas of Ontario that don’t have standalone LCBO stores. This program started in 1962 to give rural and remote areas of Ontario access to products sold in the LCBO.

  • Ontario Craft Wine, Beer, Cider & Spirits Producers / Offsite Winery Retail: Manufacturer Owned Store

    Ontario Craft Wine, Beer, Cider, and Spirits Producers: Hundreds of independent wineries, brewers and distillers in Ontario produce some of the finest beverages in the world. Under the current rules, these local producers can operate a store at their production facilities. Beyond that, they rely on the LCBO, the Beer Store, and a limited number of authorized grocery stores to sell their products.

    Offsite Winery Retail Stores: Some of Ontario’s largest wineries operate wine retail stores that can be located anywhere in Ontario. These stores are focused on selling Ontario wine produced by their owners.

  • AGCO: Oversees Safety & Regulation

    The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is a provincial agency responsible for enforcing the rules around the production, retailing and licensed sale of alcohol. AGCO has a long history of working with privately-owned business (grocery stores, manufacturer stores, restaurants, and bars) to ensure the responsible sale of alcohol.

FACT or FICTION

Fiction

The Beer Store is owned by the Ontario Government.

Fact

The Beer Store is owned by three multinational large Brewers – Molson-Coors Brewing (based in Colorado owns 51%), Labatt-Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company (based in Belgium owns 45%), and Sleeman-Sapporo Breweries (based in Japan owns 4%). A collection of Ontario Brewers own less than 1%.

Fiction

More than 7,000 jobs are at risk if the Beer Store closes its locations across Ontario.

Fact

Ontario is playing catch-up with the rest of Canada. These new changes will allow more businesses to sell and distribute alcohol. Over the long term, this is expected to create new jobs. The Retail Council of Canada estimates the expansion of beer and wine sales could lead to as many as 9,100 new jobs in the province and add $3.5 billion annually to the Ontario economy*.

*Assumes Ontario moves to the national average of alcohol retail locations per capita, and new locations experience sales increases similar to those observed in provinces like B.C. after liberalization.

 

Fiction

Selling alcohol in convenience and grocery stores will make it more expensive.

Fact

Ontario is making it more convenient for you to buy alcohol where you want it, when you want it. Increased competition with more places to buy will help businesses compete on price. That’s basic economics.

The Retail Council of Canada says certain 24-packs of beer in Ontario are on average 8.3% more expensive than in Quebec’s grocery stores after removing taxes.

 

 

Fiction

New retailers will not be able to enforce age-checks.

Fact

Agency stores and convenience stores have been responsibly verifying the age of their customers for restricted products (tobacco, lottery tickets, alcohol) for decades, and grocery retailers have embraced this responsibility seamlessly in recent years. New data shows convenience stores were 96.2% successful at denying tobacco sales to those under 19.

Ontario’s small business owners who take on the responsibility of retail alcohol are people who take it seriously – and face serious consequences if they do not.

The government will work closely with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario to ensure that retailers are properly trained on the rules, which includes age-check requirements.

 

Fiction

More private retailers will negatively impact the health and safety of communities.

Fact

The safe, responsible sale and consumption of alcohol in Ontario is – and will continue to be – a top priority.

Ontario has strong rules in place for the sale of alcohol in all retail channels, including a minimum drinking age of 19, mandatory staff training, and minimum retail prices.

 

Fiction

Small brewers will no longer be protected if alcohol is sold in convenience and grocery stores.  The current model creates a level playing field for small producers.

Fact

Right now, three major multinational brewers – Molson-Coors Brewing, Labatt-Anheuser-Busch and Sleeman-Sapporo are controlling how beer is sold in Ontario. It unfairly advantages these big corporations at the expense of Ontario’s small business owners and producers.

The Ontario Craft Brewers indicate grocery stores have the highest market share of craft beer in Ontario. More private retailers would provide more opportunities for Ontario’s small brewers to showcase their products.

 

Fiction

Consumers already have enough places to buy alcohol.

Fact

Ontario has the lowest density of retail outlets selling alcohol in Canada. For example, Quebec has over 8,000 retail stores, compared to fewer than 3,000 in Ontario.

In its recent budget, the government stated it heard from over 33,000 consumers and businesses who shared ideas about increasing choice and convenience. Consumers want increased choice and convenience when buying alcohol. In fact, when people in Ontario were asked what changes they would like to see in stores that sell alcohol, 42% wanted more opportunities to buy alcohol when shopping for other items.

 

Fiction

Re-evaluating the contract with the Beer Store will cost taxpayers up to $1B in damages.

Fact

Let’s be clear: nowhere in the province’s contract with the Beer Store are there any set financial penalties for ending the contract early or breaching any of its conditions.

The Province is currently in discussions with stakeholders from across the alcohol sector as part of its sector review. The discussions are aimed at reaching a mutually agreeable framework to improve customer convenience and choice.