Ontario Chamber calls for sweeping changes to alcohol retailing
Craft breweries hoping to benefit from the Ontario government’s move to expand beer sales to corner stores may be in for some disappointment, according to a new report by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.
In a report released Monday detailing nearly three dozen recommendations to improve the province’s alcohol industry, the business association said that Premier Doug Ford’s government needs to do more to address concerns from local craft beer producers – including competing for shelf space against major brands at The Beer Store and LCBO.
“Simply allowing grocery, convenience, and big box stores to sell beer may not, in and of itself, solve the issues facing locally-made and locally-owned craft breweries,” the Ontario chamber said in the report.
The OCC’s report comes after the Progressive Conservatives tabled legislation in May that terminates a 10-year contract with The Beer Store. The deal – which was signed by the previous Liberal government – allowed for beer and wine sales in hundreds of grocery stores, but Premier Doug Ford’s government eyes expanding sales to corner stores.
In addition to recommending the Ford government ensures its proposed alcohol sales reforms do not favour larger beer producers, the OCC also said in its report the province should consider allowing The Beer Store or its successor to widen its e-commerce and home delivery options.
The business organization warned that the provincial government should not take a “piecemeal” approach as it forges ahead with reforms on how alcohol is sold and distributed in the province.
“The province has over time developed strategies and made investments to support certain categories of beverage alcohol over others, which has led to a patchwork of policies and regulations that cause inequity within the industry,” the report said.
“The province should therefore take a comprehensive, rather than piecemeal, approach when developing policies that pertain to the beverage alcohol industry.”
Other recommendations the OCC made in its report include eliminating a 35-per-cent mark-up on local wineries, as well as a 6.1-per-cent retail store tax on domestically-produced wine sold to restaurants and tourists, and creating a new licence to allow for private, independent wine stores.