Poll: (Why) Does Ontario Need More Beer Retail Choices?

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With the Wynne government putting LCBO grocery store kiosks on hold pending further review, Ontarians are left with the status quo when it comes to the purchase of beer in the province: LCBO locations, Beer Stores, and Breweries.

Some arguments in favour of expanding retail beer selection are not overly compelling. Sure, I’d like to pick up my beer in the same place as my Eggos but really, there are very few places that an LCBO or Beer Store outlet are more difficult to find than a gas station and their respective hours are just about as good as any retail business. In urban centres (and more commonly beyond) craft brewery retail shops can often fill your need in a pinch, and quite frankly the last-minute late night/holiday beer purchase is not a convincing argument for overhauling an industry.

Price-wise we pay a fair amount for our alcohol in Ontario, but that’s not unique in Canada and, no matter who sells the beer, prices are unlikely to see a dramatic drop due to those sweet sweet taxes and legislated prices.

However, there are more compelling reasons for changes. For one, selection. While existent, craft beer selection at LCBOs it limited and quickly becomes boring to us “well-drank” individuals. Anyone who has traveled south of the border knows just how pitiful our choices are, both in terms of Canadian craft brew selection and from brewers around the world.

That being said, does improving selection really require more retail choices or simply a more aggressive approach from the LCBO? For instance, beer focused locations? Heck (Hell), look at the wine selection at any given LCBO. Surely they are capable.

Then there’s the economic issue. It seems most agree that local businesses are a good thing and that the Coors/Sapporo/Inbev quasi-monopoly on beer sales in Ontario is unfavorable for most Ontario craft breweries. I’m not in the camp of hating big breweries just for the sake of it but, despite some minor inroads, it remains indisputable that the behemoth breweries have a legislative advantage that goes over and above free market.

But of course, not everyone wants craft beer. So is it a matter of ending the Beer Store or establishing a craft focused alternative?

I’d like to hear some thoughts. Do the poll and leave comments.

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Categories: Beer Business, Uncategorized

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