Alcoholic drinks coming to a convenience store near you

Alcoholic drinks coming to a convenience store near you

LCBO retail stores will maintain consistent pricing across the province to help ensure consumers do not pay more based on where they live, including in rural and northern Ontario

Beginning no later than January 1, 2026, you will be able to buy beer, wine, cider, coolers, seltzers, and other low-alcohol ready-to-drink beverages at all participating convenience, grocery and big box stores across the province, promises the government.

“This new, more open marketplace will introduce up to 8,500 new stores where these products can be purchased, the largest expansion of consumer choice and convenience since the end of prohibition almost 100 years ago. Spirits like vodka, gin and whisky will continue to be sold at the LCBO,” says a news release.

“There’s no reason why Ontario consumers shouldn’t enjoy the same convenient shopping experience as Canadians in every other province when buying some wine for their holiday party or a case of beer or seltzers on their way to the cottage,” said Premier Doug Ford.

As a first step, the government has informed Brewers Retail Inc. (The Beer Store) that the Master Framework Agreement (MFA), signed and extended for 10 years in 2015  which limited the number of retail stores that could be authorized to sell alcohol, will not be renewed after it expires on December 31, 2025.

The Beer Store and LCBO. however, will continue their retail operations.

“The people of Ontario will soon have more choice and convenience on where they can buy alcohol,” said Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance. “As we move towards implementing this expansion, our government will be taking a responsible, measured approach so we can ensure our transition to a new marketplace is smooth, safe and stable.”

Announced today were other initiatives:

Competitive pricing: Ontario will introduce competitive pricing to all private retailers to promote competition and a better deal for consumers. LCBO retail stores will maintain consistent pricing across the province to help ensure consumers do not pay more based on where they live, including in rural and northern Ontario. Retailers will have the option to set promotional prices consistent with relevant regulations. Minimum pricing policies will remain in effect to preserve standards for responsible consumption.

Pack sizes: Ontario is removing restrictions and exclusivities on pack sizes. Consumers will be able to purchase any pack size, including 12-packs, 24-packs or even 30-packs as is popular in Quebec of beer, cider and ready-to-drink alcohol beverages at convenience, grocery and big box stores, in addition to the LCBO and The Beer Store.

Recycling program: The Beer Store has agreed to continue to run the province-wide recycling program for alcoholic beverage containers until at least 2031 as part of a transition period in the new marketplace. This program, which is well-liked and convenient for consumers with hundreds of locations across the province, helps keep costs down for producers and consumers while helping to protect the environment by diverting significant amounts of waste from landfills. The government will consult with retailers and industry stakeholders on the future of recycling and deposit returns to ensure this important feature is maintained beyond 2031.

Support for local beverage alcohol producers: Ontario will provide a range of transitional and time-limited supports to Ontario-based producers to help with the transition to a more open marketplace, including:

  • Extending dedicated shelf space requirements across all new retailers for craft producers to provide opportunities for small producers to compete
  • Immediately enhancing the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) Wine Support Program beginning in 2024-25 for up to five years to 2028-29 to support the growth and sale of Ontario-grown VQA wines
  • Extending the Wine Marketing Fund and the Small Cidery and Small Distillery Support Program for up to five years
  • Supporting local economic development by directing the LCBO to promote and prioritize Ontario-made products, producers and workers by providing more and enhanced programs, promotions and strategies to help local producers grow Ontario product sales
  • Establishing a wine and grape industry sector table between government and industry partners
  • Introducing legislation that will eliminate the 6.1 per cent wine basic tax at on-site winery retail stores, making Ontario’s tax regime competitive with other provinces, including British Columbia

Social responsibility: The government is providing an additional $10 million over five years in funding to the Ministry of Health to support social responsibility and public health efforts to ensure alcohol continues to be sold and consumed safely in the expanded marketplace. Existing requirements related to staff training, minimum pricing, hours of sale and warning signs will be maintained and applied to all new retail outlets.

Wholesale: The LCBO will be the exclusive wholesaler for all retail, bars and restaurants selling alcohol and will offer consumers an extensive array of choices, including domestic and imported products. This structure will continue to offer the benefits of the LCBO’s world-leading purchasing power and economies of scale and ensures sector stability, including maintaining an important employment footprint across Ontario and a significant revenue stream for government so that it can continue to invest in critical frontline services like health care and education. 

Distribution: The LCBO will continue to work with producers and retailers to distribute wine and spirits in an expanded marketplace, including retail stores, bars and restaurants. The Beer Store has agreed to maintain its primary role in the distribution of beer to retailers, bars and restaurants until at least 2031 as part of the transition period, helping to provide stability to the sector and frontline workers. The province will also permit more flexible distribution models for small producers.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario will continue to manage the licensing of alcohol sales in the province.

“The Ontario Craft Brewers applaud the government for delivering on its promise to expand the province’s alcohol retail system, which will put consumers first and make it easier for Ontarians to find and purchase local craft beer,” says Scott Simmons

President, Ontario Craft Brewers. “We are particularly pleased the government is building the system to support Ontario-made producers, for example, by maintaining dedicated shelf space for craft beer and continuing to prevent stocking fees so consumer choice determines what is on the shelves.”

“Today’s announcement is welcome news for Ontario’s convenience stores,” says Anne Kothawala, President of the Convenience Industry Council of Canada. “Removing antiquated restrictions on the sale of beer, wine, coolers and ready-to-drink beverages will create new revenue streams for our local businesses and meet customer demands in an increasingly competitive marketplace. This is an important step, and we are committed to working with the government on the specific details on a responsible and successful transition of these new products into our stores.”

However, the NDP is sounding an alarm.

NDP MPPs are calling for workers to be put first as the provincial government moves to phase out the Beer Store’s Master Agreement – a move set to impact thousands of unionized workers. 

“With the jobs of thousands of unionized workers on the line, we need to ensure the transition is done in a way that doesn’t leave anyone behind,” said Jamie West (Sudbury), Official Opposition NDP Labour critic. “Beer Store workers are specially trained and manage important recycling and processing services that should continue with their expertise. Based on this government’s track record, how can we trust them to get this right?” 

“There will be unique impacts to rural regions and northern Ontario, where bottle and can returns are centralized through Beer Store services,” said West. “We need to make sure there is a plan in place so northerners are not left behind again by this government.”