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Thursday April 16th, 2015

Posted at 12:43pm

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In what is perhaps the biggest legal change since the repeal of prohibition, Ontario is expanding beer sales to up to an additional 450 locations across the province, including grocery stores.

The province made the announcement Thursday morning as part of a plan following recommendations from the Premier’s Advisory Council on Government Assets.

“Ontario consumers have asked for more convenience, wider distribution and greater competition in the purchase of beer and alcohol beverages,” said finance minister Charles Sousa. “We have listened and are modernizing the system to enhance delivery and selection at competitive prices while ensuring our commitment to social responsibility.”

Expanding the sale of beer by up to 450 more locations is roughly equal to the existing number of Beer Store outlets, according to the province, and is in addition to the more than 600 LCBO stores across the province.

The new 450 locations will be authorized to sell beer in urban population centres across Ontario and more than 100 of the locations will be selling beer by 2017, while the remaining locations will be phased in.

The government says they’ll continue to uphold the principles of social responsibility by maintaining strict controls over how beer is sold at the new locations, and will ensure the sale of alcohol is restricted to set hours, is in a designated section of each store, and that all staff selling alcohol in grocery stores are properly certified and fully trained to ensure Ontario’s standards for social responsibility are always met.

And you don’t have to worry about paying more for beer now that it’s sold outside of Beer Stores. The government says Ontarians will pay the same price for the same beer, regardless of where is it sold.

Under Ontario’s uniform pricing policy, the beer price that is set by the brewer is the price the consumer pays, whether the product is sold in the LCBO, The Beer Store, the brewer’s own on-site store or, now, in a grocery store.

As part of today’s changes, the LCBO will pilot the sale of 12-packs of beer in 10 stores across the province.

The LCBO plans to create new boutique formats for niche products, craft beer and specialty spirits within LCBO stores. These new store formats will cater to local communities; sell alcohol in different formats such as re-fillable beer containers called “growlers;” allow previously unavailable products to be purchased immediately at LCBO stores; and, be fully integrated with the LCBO’s new e-commerce platform.

The government is also planning to enter into a new 10-year framework with the Beer Store that returns the Beer Store closer to its original co-operative roots. The Beer Store will see substantial reforms to its board and governance to increase fairness, transparency and accountability, according to the province.

All brewers with manufacturing facilities in Ontario will be offered a meaningful opportunity to become equity shareholders of the Beer Store and an independent Beer “Ombudsperson” will be appointed to address brewer and customer complaints.

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