Ontario: beer in grocery stores, more craft beer on shelves

http://blogs.windsorstar.com/news/ontario-beer-in-grocery-stores-more-craft-beer-on-shelves

The most sweeping changes to Ontario’s liquor laws since the end of Prohibition mean some grocers will soon sell beer and craft beer will have better placement on shelves.

The provincial government announced Thursday that it will expand sales of beer to as many as 450 grocery stores — about the same number of Beer Stores that exist, and in addition to the 600-plus LCBO outlets across the province.

The new framework, which still has to be made law, would open up ownership of the Beer Store — currently controlled by three foreign-owned multinationals — to small brewers. It will also create a new craft category to better profile microbrewery products.

“I think more people will be drinking craft beer now,” said Jordan Goure, a brewer who runs the new Brew microbrewery at 635 University Ave. E., with his brother Joshua. “It will just be more accessible for people. It was the convenience factor that we were missing with craft beer before.”

Jordan Goure of the Brew microbrewery in Windsor, Ont. is shown on Thursday, April 16, 2015. He is pleased that sales of beer will be allowed in local grocery stores. (DAN JANISSE/The Windsor Star)
Jordan Goure of the Brew microbrewery in Windsor, Ont. is shown on Thursday, April 16, 2015. He is pleased that sales of beer will be allowed in local grocery stores. (DAN JANISSE/The Windsor Star)
Though the microbrewery east of Caesars Windsor only opened in December, the Goures hope to start selling Brew craft beer in their distinctive cobalt-blue bottles with hand-tied labels in stores within two years — something they couldn’t have counted on even last year.

“Craft beer will actually sell more now,” Jordan said. “It won’t just sit there in the back where you can’t see them, with Coors Light and Molson Canadian up front. Craft beer will also be more up front and centre.”

Along with the expanded beer sales, Ontario will extend its program to return empty alcoholic containers to 2017 and expects to generate an additional $100 million a year in revenues for the province, phased in over four years.

The province also said that beer prices would be better controlled, producing among the lowest, if not lowest, beer prices in Canada.

Cobalt blue bottles from the Brew microbrewery in Windsor, Ont. are shown on Thursday, April 16, 2015. (DAN JANISSE/The Windsor Star)
Cobalt blue bottles from the Brew microbrewery in Windsor, Ont. are shown on Thursday, April 16, 2015. (DAN JANISSE/The Windsor Star)
Domenic Giglio, manager of Giglio’s Market, hopes the government will allow smaller players to sell suds along with the chain grocers.

“I hope they open it up to smaller and more independent stores because originally they talked about only allowing large supermarkets to sell beer,” Giglio said. “We’d love to have beer sales at our store here.”

Giglio said his family store already sells an unusually large volume of non-alcoholic drinks and that customers have long expressed interest in the Quebec model — where small convenience stores can offer beer and wine.

“It goes without saying that most customers would be thrilled with being able to buy beer along with their groceries, not to mention the added cost savings,” Giglio said. “It would be a great convenience.”

He thinks Ontario’s current agreement with the Beer Store — owned by American, Belgian and Japanese conglomerates — is a bad deal for Ontarians.

“A government monopoly technically benefits all of us, whereas with the Beer Store, controlled by three foreign companies, it doesn’t,” Giglio said. “I don’t think there’s any other industry that has that kind of set up.”

Besides loosening beer sales, the Ontario government also announced Thursday that it would sell part of Hydro One. Under the plan, which would be introduced in stages, Ontario would retain the largest share while no other shareholder would be allowed more than 10 per cent ownership.

“These changes will strengthen our economy, create thousands of jobs and generate $4 billion for investment in infrastructure projects — representing the largest infrastructure investment in Ontario’s history,” Premier Kathleen Wynne said in a news release. “By making smart business decisions now — decisions that unlock the value of assets and that ensure that every public dollar is at work for the people of Ontario — we are positioning our province to thrive, long into the future.”

cpearson@windsorstar.com

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