New LCBO express outlets to be introduced in Ontario
Published: Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 11:01
It appears as if Ontarians may soon see a new method of purchasing alcohol in the province – at the grocery store.
The Ontario Liberal Party made the announcement on New Years Eve. Their plan is to launch a pilot project that would see beer and spirits sold at 10 grocery stores across the province. Based on the success of these new outlets the project would then expand to more locations in Ontario.
The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) is planning to set up “express outlets” in these grocery stores that will be staffed by LCBO employees. These outlets will run in conjunction with the Wine Rack outlets found in many grocery stores. The 10 grocery stores are still yet to be determined, but will likely be in larger communities.
According to Liberal Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, these new outlets are about accessibility and convenience for the consumer.
“The goal here is better consumer access,” said Duncan in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“Ontarians are, generally speaking, very pleased with the system of [liquor] distribution, they just want more access, and we think this is the right way to go.”
The new outlets are expected to open in late 2013.
“This is getting the product into the stores and making it much more consumer accessible, and I think this is the first step in a range of new opportunities,” said Duncan.
Duncan also said that the announcement was not made in response to Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak’s call that the liquor distribution laws in Ontario needed an overhaul. Hudak’s plan would have seen more private sector sales of liquor, especially in convenience stores.
Duncan said the Progressive Conservative’s plan to sell alcohol in convenience stores was “boneheaded” and would mean less revenues for the government. Last year, the LCBO provided $1.65 billion to the government before taxes.
Hudak rejected these claims and said that the sale of alcohol in convenience stores would likely increase revenues because consumers would have more options.
In July of 2012, the Ontario Convenience Stores Association released a petition with 112,500 signatures gathered from across Ontario that all supported the idea of greater retail availability of beer and wine.
Another problem with the sale of liquor in convenience stores foreseen by Duncan is its effect on Canada’s wine and craft beer industry. He believes that corner stores would be more likely to only stock high volume sales products and would not likely carry many Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) wines or the many locally brewed craft beers.
If the goal of these new LCBO express outlets is truly about consumer access, selling liquor in convenience stores seems to make more sense, as it would drastically increase availability for consumers.
That being said, the new plan is definitely a step in the right direction and hopefully it will lead to greater consumer access and reform of the very restrictive liquor distribution laws currently in place.