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Ontario speeds up alcohol sales expansion to grocery, convenience stores, launching in August 2024

Ontario is expanding where booze can be sold in move to modernize alcohol retail market. UNSPLASH PHOTO

Ontario is accelerating its plan to expand alcohol sales in the province in grocery and convenience stores, with Premier Doug Ford announcing an earlier rollout set to start on Aug. 1 of this year.

The move is accompanied by up to $225 million in public funding for The Beer Store to help ease the transition.

Ford announced last year that beer, wine, cider and ready-to-drink cocktails would be available in convenience stores and all grocery stores by 2026. However, the phased expansion will now begin this summer.

As of Aug. 1, licensed grocery stores that currently sell beer, cider, and wine will also be permitted to sell ready-to-drink cocktails and large-pack sizes like 30-packs. Following that, from Sept. 5, eligible convenience stores will be able to sell beer, cider, wine and ready-to-drink cocktails. By Oct. 31, all grocery and big-box stores will be allowed to sell these products, including in large pack sizes. The change will ultimately introduce up to 8,500 new locations where Ontarians can purchase alcohol, a statement reads.

“We are delivering on our commitment to give consumers in Ontario the choice and convenience every other Canadian enjoys and we’re doing so even sooner than we had originally promised,” Ford said in a statement. “In the coming weeks and months, people in Ontario, like many Canadians across the country, will have the option to responsibly and conveniently purchase a case of beer or a bottle of wine on their way up to the cottage or to a summer barbecue, all while having even more opportunity to support local Ontario breweries and wineries.”

Terms of the deal

The Beer Store, which held exclusive rights to sell 12- and 24-packs of beer under an agreement with the former Liberal government, will receive up to $225 million as part of an “early implementation agreement.” 

The funding will support the transition, including keeping stores open, protecting jobs and maintaining the recycling and bottle return program until at least 2031.

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) will remain the sole retailer of high-alcohol spirits and will continue to act as a wholesaler. Retailers will receive an interim wholesale discount of 10 per cent from the LCBO’s basic retail price until 2026.

“Our responsible and balanced approach treats Ontario consumers like adults by giving them more choice and convenience, while also supporting Ontario retailers, domestic producers, and workers in the alcohol industry. As we launch this new marketplace, we will continue to meet, consult, and work closely with industry partners, local beverage alcohol producers, and other stakeholders,” says Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario will oversee the licensing of retailers and enforce stricter penalties for infractions. Retailers whose licences are revoked will face a two-year ban on reapplying. Additionally, the government is allocating $10 million over five years to support social responsibility initiatives.

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