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Eat & Drink

Revisiting the Beer Store monopoly (and why it sucks)

Posted by Ben Johnson / July 18, 2012

Beer Store TorontoMany tend to think fondly of visits to The Beer Store as a unique, Ontario experience, whether it be grabbing a six pack and heading to the park, filling the trunk with beer and ice for a weekend barbecue, or grabbing a 2-4 on the way up to the cottage.

With its dusty wall of labels to choose from, metal conveyor belts, and line-ups, it's easy to think of the Beer Store as a sort of provincial institution — a no-nonsense, government-controlled, beer distribution centre. The truth is, of course, that The Beer Store is not a government institution at all. It's a privately owned company. And, while the experience of visiting The Beer Store is indeed unique to Ontario, these days it really has less and less to do with the beer companies who are actually based in the province at all.

Because when you buy beer at The Beer Store, you're actually supporting massive corporations based at least in part in the States, in Brazil, in Belgium, or in Japan — regardless of the brand of beer you actually buy.

The Beer Store, as you probably already know, is actually owned by Labatts, Molson-Coors, and Sleeman, and however Canadian these household brands may sound, they're not. Molson isn't really just Molson anymore. It's Molson-Coors, a company with equal ownership in Canada and the United States. Labatt Brewing Company is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, a Belgian-Brazilian multinational company headquartered in Leuven, and, since 2006, Sleeman has been owned by Japanese brewer Sapporo.

As the owners of The Beer Store, these three brewers are not only taking in an astounding 79.2% of the market share of all beer sold in Ontario, but they also gets to make up standards and fees to which any other brewer must adhere if he or she wants the store to stock his or her products.

A report from the Fraser institute entitled, "The results of beer regulation in Ontario" recently detailed those fees:

There are two fees that TBS charges breweries to have their products sold in its store. The first is a one time listing fee with a base charge of $2,650.14 plus $212.02 per store that the product is sold in. This amount is paid per product that the brewery would like to sell. For example, if a brewery had six distinct brands of beer and wanted to sell each brand in packages of 6, 12, and 24, they would need to pay a listing fee for 18 products. The second is what TBS refers to as a "handling fee." This fee is charged at between $43.40/hectolitres and $49.40/ hectolitres or between $3.65 and $4.15 for every case of 24 beers. Both of these fees only apply to non-owner breweries.

So the big brewers profit not just from sales of their own massively popular beers and the sale of other beers in The Beer Store, but also just for letting other breweries sit on their shelves.

Of course, as an old Toronto Star article explains, The Beer Store doesn't use the term "profits." Instead "the stores operate on a "cost-recovery" basis, meaning the fees are supposed to cover its costs. When the fees exceed the costs, the store issues a rebate - but only to The Beer Store's owners. If costs exceed the fees, the owners make up the difference. No one knows when or if the owners get a rebate because the privately-owned chain isn't required to make that information public."

Surprisingly, the historical roots of this system come from a desire to protect small brewers. The Beer Store (then the Brewers Warehousing Company Ltd. and later Brewers Retail) was originally a co-operative established after the end of Prohibition in 1927 after the government decided it didn't want the responsibility of distributing beer in the province. It was originally owned by every brewer then in business in Ontario.

Now, thanks to years of successive consolidation of brewing companies, ownership rests in the hands of these three companies, putting us in the weird position of living in a province whose government's regulation is protecting multinational companies.

Of course, The Beer Store touts its considerable charity work, notably positive environmental impact (saving the province countless dollars in recycling costs by accepting bottle returns), and its friendly fee structure for smaller brewers as evidence that they're not the controlling monopoly they're made out to be.

And the argument can also be made that The Beer Store offers brewers the ability to present their products to consumers in over 430 stores across Ontario, a market they wouldn't otherwise have access to given Ontario's strict liquor laws that dictate where booze can be sold.

Which seems like a fair argument, until you consider that the "exposure" being offered is typically no more than a spot with all the other brands on the wall of labels. Thanks to the The Beer Store's lack of any real "browsing experience" or signage, it's highly unlikely a consumer will wander into the get-in-and-get-out set up of a Beer Store and come out with a new craft brand that seemed interesting.

What little "marketing" does happen at the Beer Store likewise only serves to help the big guys. The "Ice Cold Express" for example, that wall of refrigerated beer, is really just a showcase of brewers with a willingness to shell out some more money for the right to be there (and guess who has that kind of dough to spend?).

Other "marketing" measures like "The Big Ten," that list of The Beer Stores' top sellers, also serve to further compound the problem by helping the big guys continue to push their own brands--because they are already the best-selling beers.

Ever see "Ten Ontario Beers You Should Try" or "Ten Great Craft IPAs" listed at The Beer Store? Not bloody likely, and you probably won't any time soon.

The Beer Store is a wildly successful monopoly wherein the three biggest players in the market are somehow being allowed to not only dictate the terms by which their smaller competition gets to enter the biggest outlet for their products but actually force them to pay for the right to do so!

So how does this effect you? Because this province's craft brewers, who make delicious, complex, and interesting beers, have to pay more and work harder simply for the right to sell their beer somewhere, we, the consumers, typically have to pay more to enjoy their products. They need to up their prices to cover the expenses of producing their beer and, if they so choose, paying The Beer Stores fees.

They also have to work extra-hard to market their products against the guys that have millions and millions to spend on advertising, so we're forced to pay more to support Ontario's craft brewers. The alternative is that we turn a blind eye to the situation and buy lagers off the Big Ten list whose most redeeming feature is how very cold their beer can be. Either way, we lose.

Photo by Metrix X in the blogTO Flickr pool

Discussion

125 Comments

Soused / July 18, 2012 at 01:09 pm
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Well done excellent article, kill the beer store with fire!

/grabs torch and pitchfork
JLankf / July 18, 2012 at 01:14 pm
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If there's one thing Canadian government, regardless of level, knows how to make, it's a monopoly.
Drunkard / July 18, 2012 at 01:15 pm
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Thank you for posting this, I had no idea about most of this stuff despite visiting the store near daily.
Joe Scratch / July 18, 2012 at 01:29 pm
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You make no mention of the fact that the LCBO sells beer too.

More of a duopoly then a monopoly. This Rogers/Bell for tv
Duff Gardens... hoo-rah! / July 18, 2012 at 01:31 pm
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We'll see democracy in North Korea before the province unclenches it's monopoly on our beverages.

And the claim that small brewers are given access to a whole province of consumers is two-fold. The Beer Store can be a big steel door blocking the promotion of local product. You can't play in the big leagues if the coach doesn't pick you.

Screw the Beer Store. Mother/Destroyer.
BH / July 18, 2012 at 01:33 pm
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Well written article. It might repeat a lot of information but many beer drinkers in Ontario still think the Beer Store is government-owned. The way the whole thing is run is scandalous, but everyone knows Daddy McGuinty won't change it anytime soon.
Brad / July 18, 2012 at 01:34 pm
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I personally prefer not to buy from the Beer Store because of where its profits go and because LCBO tends to have more interesting beers, but I just wanted to point out that some fact-checking is in order: The Beer Store is actually shifting toward providing a "browsing experience" as you put it. At least some of their stores have opened up the cold room and changed to a self-serve model, which does make it easier to find interesting beers. I don't know how many TBS stores are like this, but the one at Dufferin Mall is, and at least one in Oakville is.
j-rock / July 18, 2012 at 01:39 pm
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If more people were actually made aware of the myriad of ways in which we get screwed over daily, they might take to the streets.

I bet if you were to randomly poll people just out walking around, that 90% or more would state confidently that the beer store is government run.
J / July 18, 2012 at 01:42 pm
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Again another reason why we need to be able to buy beer in convenience stores, instead we reamin in the dark ages.

Steve / July 18, 2012 at 01:52 pm
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I'd see the logic here if most of us weren't also offered the choice of purchasing craft beers at the LCBO (which we can then return the bottles for to the Beer Store).

I can't think of many parts of Ontario or Toronto that don't HAVE LCBO's at some location nearby... if you dislike the options at the Beer Store, don't shop there.
Steve / July 18, 2012 at 01:53 pm
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Oh and lastly... big distinction between the Beer Store and Corner Store/Grocery Store purchasing? Beer Store workers are unionized and paid a reasonably decent wage... while your beer might be cheaper, you'd also be under-cutting a fairly significant employer in the province.
scott / July 18, 2012 at 01:55 pm
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the beer store is chinese capitalism.

everyone should write to Dalton McGuinty:

https://correspondence.premier.gov.on.ca/en/feedback/default.aspx
Dan / July 18, 2012 at 01:58 pm
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1) The alternative selling models represented in Alberta, Quebec and the US does not provide us with a better way to give independent brewers more space. In fact they all operate in a manner shifting more towards the large breweries. Where small retailers simply have less shelf space to stock the smaller labels. Is then the alternative an actually governement-run store?

2) The Beer Store is 3x more profitable than the LCBO and the province doesn't lift a finger. In fact, one could argue that we have shifted the burden to the large breweries, that if they want to make money selling a product that has dangerous effects, it will cost you.

3) It creates well-paying jobs with benefits. Comparatively to privately run retailers in other provinces/states where they are low-paying service jobs

4) I have lived in BC, Quebec and have travelled extensively in the rest of Canada and the US. Ontario has the best run alcohol and liqour sales that I have seen for relatively low prices.

It seems people are mad just at the idea of a monopoly. But we still have control and the government can regulate how the Beer Stores operate. Pressure on the Ontario government to showcase independent labels seems like the better way to go.
BH replying to a comment from Steve / July 18, 2012 at 02:02 pm
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The logic here is that we don't agree with the notion that the province should support a monopoly. Just because the LCBO is around doesn't make the Beer Store business model any less anachronistic.

And as far as the union angle goes, customer service in both places (Beer Store and LCBO) is terrible, with workers often having their own private jokes/discussions/arguments in front of the customers or ignoring the customers at the cash register. And god forbid you ask them to door get something for you. There are some good workers there but you'd think that they'd have a better attitude considering the coin they make.
scott replying to a comment from Dan / July 18, 2012 at 02:03 pm
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Dan, you're completely wrong. In Quebec you can buy beer at every corner store and the product includes both local and large brands of beer. It's 30% more inexpensive (a 24 of Keith's is $27 vrs $40 in Ontario).

Also, minimum wage union jobs for a small amount of people is moot compared to the entrepreneurial opportunities that would exist for people - essentially allowing them to create their own destiny instead of working at a shitty thankless job.
Roy Murray / July 18, 2012 at 02:04 pm
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Great article - I have just returned from the Beer Store and the selection is abysmal, service is indifferent; Coors Light everywhere and as mentioned, nary a look in for more interesting beers. It's time for a big change.
scott replying to a comment from Steve / July 18, 2012 at 02:06 pm
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Don't shop there?! Are you effin serious?!?! It's the only place to buy a 24 which is less expensive. How do I have a choice?!

The Beer Store is dead.
Joe / July 18, 2012 at 02:44 pm
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no fucks given about this - would just be nice if all the beer stores were open till 11. the convenience store model is good, but they still stop serving beer around the same time (11 or so) and the selection is FAR worse than the beer store.

i don't want a beer "browsing experience" or to be inundated with more beer marketing from small manufacturers while i'm in getting a case - that's what social media is for - like a sign in a beer store is going to take me away from my old favorites on a saturday night.

and for anyone complaining about the attitude of beer store employees, shame on you, yuppie swine. i looked forward to the no nonsense sarcastic nature of my beer store experience. you don't like it? head down to the beer boutique and grab a 4 pack of mike's hard lemonade.
obnoxious / July 18, 2012 at 02:48 pm
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You don't think BLOG TO is part of this? Who do you think sponsors their shock top ads you see? BEER STORE / MOLSON / LABATT !!

Oops I forgot...blog to is all about LOCAL!
Mt replying to a comment from Joe / July 18, 2012 at 02:53 pm
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fly away troll
Ben replying to a comment from obnoxious / July 18, 2012 at 02:53 pm
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Well shouldn't you give kudos to blogTO for letting me write this for their site then?

If they had shot down my article pitch because they let advertising dollars dictate content, then you'd have something to get all CAPSLOCK about.
Anon11 / July 18, 2012 at 02:57 pm
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It's about having the freedom to choose.
It's a monopoly and consumers/taxpayers always end up suffering for it.
Anyone who defends this system is a big fat retard and Dalton's unwitting mouthpiece.
Politician should be hung by the balls for not having the courage to stand up for something.
I nearly don't drink anymore as the the LCBO / beer store experience makes me sick to my stomach, and I don't like the idea of giving the government more of my money.
Ted / July 18, 2012 at 03:03 pm
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Ben, sorry you feel this way about us. For the record, our financial statements can actually be found at thebeerstore.ca/about-us/operational report. We are pretty transparent. We sell about 350 brands of beer from approximately 90 different brewers (I say about and approximate because the number changes weekly). Almost one third of those brewers are based right here in Ontario and small brewers make up the moajority of those. Small brewers growth in 2010 was the highest at over 8% -- not bad considering overall sales have been somewhat flat during the economic downturn. On average, on a store for store basis, we cannot find better selection. The difference between the price of beer in Ontario and Quebec is all tax (higher here obviously). Since 2009, we have only built full self serve shopping experiences so that all products are fully displayed. We say "no" to no brewer. Any brewer, no matter how big or small can list as many products as he or she wishes in as many stores as he or she prefers. Our environmental record is award winning and saves Ontario tax payers over $40 million per annum. Our social responsibility record is fantastic refusing service to thousands of people who might otherwise put themselves in harms way on an annual basis. Working with the union that represents our employees, we collectively raise more than a million dollars per year in the fight against Leukemia. We proudly employ 7,000 workers in Ontario and I am a proud member of their team.
anon / July 18, 2012 at 03:05 pm
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to everyone mentioning freedom of choice in this thread:

you work 9-5, buy car/house, raise kids, save for retirement, and hope nothing tragic happens in your life. you are supposed to abide by the rules. be a good citizen. get that economy running.

say you are free.
A Different J / July 18, 2012 at 03:05 pm
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If anyone can tell me where they, themselves (with their own two eyes!), have seen Krombacher Pils in the LCBO and at whatever location, I promise never to step foot in The Beer Store again. The one at Dufferin has a surprisingly decent selection, including Krombacher. Mmmm...beeeeeer.
Jordan St.John / July 18, 2012 at 03:08 pm
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Honestly, this should pretty much be drilled into the public's consciousness by now. The reason that nothing changes is that the owners can afford to lobby. Foreign owned companies are dictating Ontario's liquor policies to the detriment of the public, and they're doing it with our money.
what / July 18, 2012 at 03:12 pm
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We can comment on beer but not on the Worthy 30 party of clowns. Okay then.
Dave K / July 18, 2012 at 03:12 pm
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The one thing you CAN do is go to the actual government-run monopoly, the LCBO. You can't always get two-fours from them but their beer selection is far superior, as is the shopping experience. I only really go to TBS when I need to drop off my empties.
MS / July 18, 2012 at 03:18 pm
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You ought to distinguish between three points here:

-- the idea that there ought to be a single system of beer distribution in Ontario (which is actually probably a net positive for small brewers and the like, certainly a positive for recycling. Small brewers have a harder time in the U.S.)

-- the idea that three large beverage companies should make excess profits off beer distribution (bad)

-- the idea left over from the Temperance days that alcohol should be priced quite high to discourage consumption (positive for small breweries but negative for beer drinkers)

All of these factors are present in the modern alcohol system in Ontario, and it is possible to criticize parts of it while supporting other parts. The Beer Store system is not 100% bad. If the government took ownership and eliminated the minimum beer pricing rules, everybody except the multinational beverage companies would win.
Ben replying to a comment from Ted / July 18, 2012 at 03:19 pm
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Thanks Ted for your comments. I've read the arguments in favour of The Beer Store before (memorably here, in a familiar paragraph from a Beer Store employee named “Ted” http://www.postcity.com/Post-City-Magazines/October-2011/Should-we-break-up-the-Beer-Store-monopoly-and-embrace-competition/).

I can appreciate the Beer Store's commitment to the environment and safe service; however, your comments don't address the inherent flaw with having the big brewers competitors pay them for the right to be sold there. Surely you can see how that might be perceived as harmful to smaller brewers and massively advantageous to the big guys.

I also don’t think the Beer Store can take any credit for the growth in craft beer sales. Sorry. I’d argue that virtually all credit is due to the hard-working craft brewers of this province who are busting their asses to sell their products and are doing so in spite of a system of laws that makes it exceedingly difficult for them to get their products to people who might want to drink them.

I’m not arguing that we shut down the Beer Store outright, but changes could certainly be made to allow other brewers more of a say in how beer is sold in this province. Whether that be more owner-brewers at The Beer Store (if that’s even possible) or craft-focused retail outlets--I can’t say, but surely the Ontario consumer and the small Ontario brewer would benefit from re-examining the system that’s currently in place.
Dan replying to a comment from scott / July 18, 2012 at 03:20 pm
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Scott
I didn't say the product was cheaper in Ontario than quebec. I said when you factor in Liquor prices it was similar. However, I have yet to find any store that provides anywhere close to the selection the Beer Store provides. However, the cheapest cases aren't that far apart in comparison. It's the more expensive cases that become cheaper in Quebec. You can buy a case for 27 dollars in Ontario, and support independent local brands like Brick.

And as for your other point. I don't know if you're describing convenience stores as great entrepreneurial opportunities. However, there are those opportunities in Ontario. With less risk of robbery thanks to Alcohol sales. Also, beer stores jobs are probably more shitty and thankless because of customers who don't thank them. (maybe you?) I try to thank all service staff who help me. I hope others do the same

And I know a few people who work at Beer Stores, and they all seem to enjoy it actually. Only a small sample, but still. I worked at a convenience store for 5 years. It sucked. It would've sucked a lot more if we sold alcohol.
Dan / July 18, 2012 at 03:22 pm
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Ted,

One concern I have is with the new "browsing experience" stores is that they can not be nearly as environmentally friendly as the older stores.
Ratpick replying to a comment from Steve / July 18, 2012 at 03:27 pm
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" if you dislike the options at the Beer Store, don't shop there."

Is that supposed to be funny? 'Cause funny it is.

Lloyd / July 18, 2012 at 03:36 pm
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My corner Beer Store (Wincott / Eglinton) for years had a browsing section when you could actually go and look through the selections which was great because I used to try different brands etc that way. Then several years ago, they renovated to the "new look" so now that is all gone except for a few in the cold section. Wish they had kept it the other way. Now usually get my beer at the LCBO.
Matt / July 18, 2012 at 04:03 pm
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I aim to buy my beer at the LCBO whenever possible because of the selection and the so called browsing experience. In general, I find Ontario's liquor laws to be absolutely maddening.
W. K. Lis / July 18, 2012 at 04:12 pm
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End the Beer Store and LCBO monopolies.
John replying to a comment from Ted / July 18, 2012 at 04:15 pm
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None of that addresses the reality that Ontarians want change and they want more convenience in beer retailing. People are tired of only one choice with limited hours and inconvenient locations. Our view is leave the LCBO alone, and leave the Beer Store alone, but let's broaden the points of retail sales to include responsible community convenience store retailers. A clear majority of Ontarians are asking for this.
Alex / July 18, 2012 at 04:19 pm
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Buy straight from the microbrews
Dan J / July 18, 2012 at 04:22 pm
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I honestly thought the beer store was government run. I haven't bought beer from the beer store in a very long time though, as there are about 3 LCBOs within a 10 minute drive of my house. They all offer a much, MUCH better selection anyways.

The only downside is returning empties can be a bit of a pain when I have 30 loose cans and bottles :-P Very small price to pay though for excellent beer.
This Post Brought To You By Budweiser: The King of Beers / July 18, 2012 at 04:34 pm
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imagine if you will, a future where you cna walk into any store and buy a beer. then you walk outside and crack it open and drink it right there!!! …well, this is pure science fiction so don't get any ideas.
Donald / July 18, 2012 at 05:01 pm
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I haven't been in an Ontario beer store in 10+ years as they are about the worst possible shopping experience.

Indeed they have a large selection, horribly displayed with no accompanying information, don't touch the bottle displays, etc. Ask for a beer not in their top 10 sellers and the entire process grinds to a halt as they search for it in the warehouse, the line behind gets restless, the warehouse flunky comes to the front asking to spell the beer name, the cash register flunky is searching for the hotkey on the register. Truly a horrible experience.

It's painful to admit but the province does reap benefits from both the beer store and LCBO retail models. But they also greatly harm small and new drinks' entrepreneurs. Simply Ontario needs a third beer, wine and spirits retail marketing system, perhaps a beer store similar original intent in the form of a made in Ontario retail consortium whose only entrance requirement is just that: made in Ontario.
Richard S replying to a comment from Dan / July 18, 2012 at 05:17 pm
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Guessing Dan's never left Ontario.
When I was in Quebec, i went to a Dep and bought a boatload of Quebec microbeer, none of which you can get in Ontario (in other words: tax revenue Ontario lost). I then went to Atwater market, where I bought bottles of Les Trois Mouskatiers. More Quebec beer, more tax revenue that was gifted to Quebec.

Same story in Calgary - i bought lots of Alley Katz (Edmonton microbrewery).

If I had to guess, I'm now spending $200 a month on beer, and none of it is from the LCBO or The Beer Store. Its all directly from Ontario breweries, or mostly from out of province purchases (Michigan and New York say hello). That's a LOT of tax revenue that doesn't get funnelled back into our province.

And why? Because we allow mega-corporations that ARE NOT CANADIAN to operate a beer monopoly.

Such an opportunity lost.
Bill replying to a comment from Ted / July 18, 2012 at 05:18 pm
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How wold you like it if the Gov't told you could only shop at Loblaws for your groceries.I don't think you would.
Chris / July 18, 2012 at 05:34 pm
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I love that the distribution of beer is one of those topics that generates a ton of comments on this board. Very Canadian.

That said, all the reasoning and rationale aside, I genuinely cannot think of a single reason why a privately owned, government-sanctioned (I say "sanctioned" because they allow it happen aren't inclined to change it) virtual monopoly on beer distribution in Ontario is a good thing.

There are certainly arguments to be made about the LCBO monopoly, but at least we own that. The Beer Store on the other hand, besides being a privately held company isn't even Canadian owned anymore - meaning that decisions about how beer is distributed in this province are made in Colorado (don't kid yourselves in thinking Molson/Coors is an equal partnership. The Coors side calls the shots), Japan and Belgium/Brazil, all with our government's blessing.

How on earth is that a situation that makes sense?

At the end of the day, I'm not exactly willing to take to the streets and Occupy Beer Stores over this, but seriously, that's messed up.
Richard S replying to a comment from Ted / July 18, 2012 at 05:36 pm
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You're fudging facts.
Please list all of the beer sold/SKUs by the following Toronto breweries:

Bellwoods
Spearhead
Augusta
Great Lakes
Duggans

Now, let's list the number of Quebec and Manitoba breweries you list. You know...those provinces located next to us? Like:

Half Pints
Dieu du Ciel
Fort Garry
Les Trois Mouskatiers
Charlevoix
Trou du Diable
Cheval Blanc
Hopfenstark


Shall I list more?
You guys make it impossible for the little guy to succeed. You're a fat, bloated, gross monopoly that's happy to pump out beer and not promote independent breweries. Surprised you don't have girls in Bud bikinis at each Beer Store, "suggesting" to your patrons what they should drink
BH replying to a comment from Donald / July 18, 2012 at 05:46 pm
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Exactly. At least in the old days of self-serve Beer Stores you could find it and pick it up yourself, making the lineup less of an issue.

The way beer is ordered and brought out is so archaic (buying single cans also tends to grind things to a halt) that it would be a total failure if any other retail outlet in the world adopted it. The wall takes forever to read and people have no idea if they actually have anything on the wall in stock. And in a lot of Beer Stores the empties go to the same register as purchases which slows it down even more. A total failure on all counts.
scottd / July 18, 2012 at 06:28 pm
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Alberta's deregulation resulted in less choice and higher prices according to a study done a few years later. I think there should be a beer store and local store options.But without the LCBO beer selection in Ontario would dwindle.
J / July 18, 2012 at 07:13 pm
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For the folks who complain about selection and micro breweries..I say who cares.
This is Canada and we are use to a lack of selection. Look at your choices for cable, wireless, internet. The Beer Store and LCBO have a huge selection, they may not have every micro brewery known to man but many of the larger breweries buy up these micro breweries once they gain in popularity anyway. I personally am overwhelmed with the selection of beers these days.

And yes the Beer Store being a monopoly is not a good thing, but again something we have come to deal with in this country. The fact that it's not even a Canadian monopoly is more of a concern. Yet the fact that it's foreign ownership we don't even get all of the beer that they produce. Again are we really complaining we don't have enough of a selection?

I think the LCBO has done a great job over the years making sure they have enough locations in the downtown core, the BS not so much.

I think the other key concern for many people is convenience. There are clothing stores open later than the LCBO and Beer Stores and I wish that if we wanted a basic 6 pack (again we don't need a huge selection here, just the basics) we could get it from a convenience store or gas station. I mean if you can buy cigarettes at these places why not beer or wine?
BH replying to a comment from J / July 18, 2012 at 07:34 pm
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Speak for yourself on selection. Why on earth would you accept, no, embrace having a lack of choice on beer or anything else? Stockholm Syndrome?

This isn't the old days anymore when beer didn't have to taste good, it only had to contain beer. And as far as that huge selection at the Beer Store goes, it doesn't matter when it's a huge selection of crap which is why most micros are found in the LCBO.
White Apologist For The People / July 18, 2012 at 08:00 pm
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It takes real money and real government to front them a cool quarter million and get the beer bottle to tweet directly to the mobile when the good white coffer-drinkers are inundated with distracted driving. Stupids, tweet from the case to the car... "Driver, your car has been disabled."
Antony / July 18, 2012 at 09:16 pm
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The straw that broke my back on wanting the Beer Store monopoly gone is their relentless strip-mall-style design. I want to ride my bike to buy beer, and be able to lock up out front to a reasonable bike rack.

Instead every Beer Store in my neighborhood has a huge parking lot out front with zero bike parking.

It's small potatoes, but sours me on their whole "We're Green!" marketing bullshit.
Sean / July 18, 2012 at 09:32 pm
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Hate getting scammed? Boycott!
jay in Alta / July 18, 2012 at 09:56 pm
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I've noticed that prices can be significantly lower in Ontario than in Alberta (where I live).
Rick / July 18, 2012 at 09:58 pm
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Much like everything else in Ontario, and Canada, all stores are monopolized everywhere you go. It never fails to see a Boston Pizza, Kelsey's and/or Pizza Pizza, TD Bank in any neighborhood.

We need more independent chains in this country to give some sort of real option and uniqueness. We have so much potential to be different, but we're so monopolized, it's a little sad.
Gabe / July 18, 2012 at 10:16 pm
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The beer store does a great job of taking back your empties from the beer store or the LCBO, no one else can do that? Maybe they have a monopoly on returns but thats their win.

Convience stores in Toronto often have a wide variety of things, they'll have a lot less space for everyday products if Beer takes over the store. Also there is quite the selection of beers at the beer stores. Once you give it up to the convienience stores two or three major brands will own all the shelf space it will be all Bud, Labatt, and Molson products
clive replying to a comment from Rick / July 18, 2012 at 10:34 pm
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I agree. Blame on the (not-so)Smart Centres. You can go anywhere in Canada and see the same stores and not even feel like you left Barrie, Leaside, Kelowna, Halifax. Horrible, Horrible planning(or lack of).
David / July 18, 2012 at 11:03 pm
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One of the things I've been impressed by are the VQA stores in BC. They are run by people interested in BC wines. I'd very much like to see equivalent stores in Ontario.

Perhaps something similar could be proposed for craft beers in Ontario; specialized stores selling only craft beers.

Depanneurs in Quebec do carry beer from some smaller brewers, but most of the beer they carry is from the large breweries.
McRib replying to a comment from Gabe / July 19, 2012 at 12:12 am
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so your argument against is that beer will take over the convenience store and there wont be room for other items?

jesus F.

all people want is a couple of coolers full of cold beer, not to turn it into another beer store.
beer store schmerestore / July 19, 2012 at 04:27 am
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Hit your local breweries and the LCBO for better selections.
John Coates / July 19, 2012 at 06:25 am
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On the Quebec thing - beer sold in Quebec depanneurs or corner stores needs to be brewed in Quebec. That's why you see big brands and the craft brewers - just want to clear that up. The SAQ is the only one with Imports.

Also, there are huge labour issues with beer - it's the big reason you cannot bring beer over provincial borders. Say if Molson went on strike in Ontario (separate union from Quebec), it stops Molson from bringing beer in from Quebec. Just another angle to think of but Craft Breweries should be able to help employ a lot of Ontarioians.

I've only heard this through others... so I might be wrong.

And I do want to eliminate the beer store or add ownership to from the Ontario Craft Brewer's Association.
Darcy McGee / July 19, 2012 at 09:40 am
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There's one aspect to the monopoly that is the Beer Store and/or the LCBO that tends to get overlooked: there's a store north of Huntsville on the way to Algonquin park, right at the junction of the highway to Dorset that I used to stop at on my way to a camping trip. Way back when, I used to get Upper Canada Lager at that store, when Upper Canada Lager was a good beer.

The reality is that in a pure competitive market that store would have nothing but Molson Canadian and Labatts Blue in it. It's essentially an isolated outpost with no competition.

The fact that you could get a quality microbrew a half hour north of the middle of nowhere is the sort of thing that only happens when market demand isn't the only driving factor.
Aaron replying to a comment from John Coates / July 19, 2012 at 10:18 am
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Wrong. There are plenty of imports available in deps and grocery stores as well as SAQ.

I despise the beer store. I despise the monopolistic pricing. I despise the fact that different stores are open different hours on different days- and closed completely at times of highest demand (holidays). I despise the fact that there is rarely one within easy walking distance. I despise the mountain of white trash beer gear on display in nearly every store. I despise the shitty, miserable little buildings that are always surrounded by huge parking lots. I despise the 'Sovietness' of the entire purchasing procedure. And I really, completely despise the fact that the employees can be such idiots at times. My girlfriend and I were once refused service for "exhibiting signs of inebriation" even though we'd had nothing to drink. Our crime? Tickling each other in line. This was 10 minutes before closing and too late to walk to the next 'nearest' (lol) store so we had to go to the party and mooch off friends all night.

Of course the foreign owners love this setup. They only have to deliver to fewer than 100 retail outlets rather than thousands of corner and grocery stores. They can set hours that
will save on payroll and fuck what the customers want. The can set prices to whatever they like and fuck the customers. They can tell the customer to simply fuck right off for that matter. They can push their swill brands, charge outrageous shelving fees and fuck the competition- there's a reason that Bud and Coor's Light are the number one brands in Ontario and it's certainly not the quality!

Don't just close these shitty little shacks down- BURN them down! They're a travesty that only exist in Ontario. I wonder why?
Gabe replying to a comment from McRib / July 19, 2012 at 10:41 am
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Yes you'll get a couple of coolers of Molson, Labatt, and Bud. The big three will dominate the corner store which unless you develop a taste for those , you'll still go to an LCBO or BeerStore to get anything different.

Are the convience stores gonna take back the cans and bottles? Or will we just remove the deposit and through them all in the garbage to recycling like other countries?
Cam / July 19, 2012 at 10:47 am
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Just a point about supposed good union jobs at the Beer Store: the starting rate there is barely above minimum wage, and management are ruthless about giving employees work hours-- everyone except the manager and one maybe one or two of the lifers are kept part-time so they don't have to receive benefits. A lot of the Beer Store's "social responsibility" stuff is just bullshit. Stores in Toronto have a policy of carding anyone who looks under 30, to inflate the number of "challenges" so as to appear vigilant about underage drinking.
mikeb replying to a comment from W. K. Lis / July 19, 2012 at 11:05 am
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End the duopoly indeed! I will be happy when Ontario has places like this:

http://www.brouehaha.com/ (in @#!! Gatineau)
http://www.premierwines.com/ & http://www.premiergourmet.com/ (Buffalo)
http://www.citybeerstore.com/ (San Francisco)
http://www.binnys.com/ (Chicago)

The current duopoly model stifles price competition and ensures that the little guy is kept out of Beer and Liquor stores. The LCBO doesn't even use its size or market penetration to pay the least possible price. The LCBO agency store program makes it clear that small businesses in Ontario can sell booze just fine without all hell breaking loose.

I only go into the Beer Store to return empties. Thanks, Dalton.
mikeb replying to a comment from scottd / July 19, 2012 at 11:10 am
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If you are talking about the study done by Boyd, his comments were that Alberta made a mistake by not allowing grocery retailers to sell wine, beer and spirits.

Also keep in mind that Alberta still has a complete distribution monopoly.
Oryx / July 19, 2012 at 11:18 am
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it's "affect you", not "effect you"
Aaron replying to a comment from Darcy McGee / July 19, 2012 at 11:58 am
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Upper Canada Lager is a Labatt product, that's the only reason you can get it up there, and it's probably the only place in a 30-40 km radius that the locals can go to- conveniently open until 6pm I'd imagine.

Outside of Ontario there would probably be dozens of gas stations and stores along the way where you could pick up a decent selection because micros can afford to sell where they don't have to pay 'listing fees'. I doubt you'll find Mill Street or Steam Whistle in too many rural locations when it costs them thousands of dollars just to enter each dinky little store- the rare time that you can find one.
John Coates replying to a comment from Aaron / July 19, 2012 at 12:00 pm
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Aaron - which imports are you talking about? Are you sure they are not brewed in Quebec...? Just because they say import, does not mean they are imported.
John Coates / July 19, 2012 at 12:05 pm
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Also, I really like the Quebec system. A small brewery can choose to be in a few Deps and grow organically... instead of just doing a big launch into a chain or the Beer Store.
Dick replying to a comment from Richard S / July 19, 2012 at 12:13 pm
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Gee Richard, how many of those Toronto brewers that you note have any interest in selling at the Beer Store. My guess is none because if they were they would be there. The author of this article said brewers could pick and choose what stores they wanted to be in didn't he?

As for the Quebec and Manitoba brews you list this likely has nothing to do with the Beer Store and everything to do with interprovincial trade barriers. Maybe your question really should by why aren't they at the LCBO who have the right of first refusal for any beer from out of province.

The province sets the price. Everything goes through the AGCO. Putting beer in corner stores will reduce selection while the price remains the same. At least until a whole lot of other provincial law is changed regarding beer pricing and good luck with that when government is addicted to the easy tax revenue from alcohol in general.
Foreign owned??? This really is an issue? Why? Do you shop at Walmart? Do you buy your gas from Shell or Esso? Do you drink booze or wine from only Ontario and only locally owned? Give me a break. The whole of Canada is foreign owned. Get over it.

I don't think the system is perfect but I also think between the LCBO and The Beer Store we have more selection than any other province in Canada.

Aaron replying to a comment from John Coates / July 19, 2012 at 12:17 pm
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The usuals: Heineken, Becks, Corona, Kilkenny, Guinness, Boris, Grolsch, Leffe, Stella, Hoegaarden, Brahma, Sapporo (all distributed by the Big 3), cheapo Americans: PBR, Old Milwaukee etc, some really nice cork tops from France and a few others I've never heard of. All but the tiniest of deps stock most if not all of those.
bonezone replying to a comment from Richard S / July 19, 2012 at 12:22 pm
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fat, bloated... this coming from a guy who spends $200 / month at micro breweries, you must be huge, are you using a special wand taped to your sausage fingers to type this?
Aaron replying to a comment from Dick / July 19, 2012 at 12:38 pm
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Then maybe we should have monopoly grocery and clothing stores because the current system has left us with a dearth of food and clothing options. Let's say 20 grocery stores and 40 clothing stores for the entire city. They may only open inconvenient hours and be located far apart but they will have a way better selection than all these little local stores. Because god only knows that I can never find Organic Mexi-Tandoori Pringles at my local shop! The monopoly store will carry 40 flavours of Pringles.. if Pringles is one of the monopoly's brands, that is. Though I'll probably have to cancel my plan to introduce my own, locally produced chip.
Chris / July 19, 2012 at 12:43 pm
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Great comments. I got fed up years ago when I went to the US bought beer just about anywhere. Coming back here to buy swill at our beer stores was a huge let down. I started to make my own beer and have been doing it for a long time. I only go to the beer store when doing so for someone else. It is a depressing experience for sure. You are surrounded by swill, and more swill. Go to the wall and stand there looking for interesting beers and you will get an elbow in the ribs to move along because this is where the empties are taken back. What a joke. Ontario has a huge population with the absolute worst beer retail system in the world, well maybe some other communist country is worse. I am so proud to make my own beer and not contribute to this horrible monopoly of a beer retail system that should of been disbanded 50 years ago.
Nick replying to a comment from Dan / July 19, 2012 at 12:46 pm
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Dan, by your statement I'm lead to believe you haven't travelled extensively in the US. I've lived in New York and work and family (pop's side is American) has me constantly in the south or in California. Whether I'm in Miami, New York, San Diego or Asheville NC (you want a working example of local retailers with an EXTENSIVE selection of craft brews for cheap???) without any question, I can get beer - local or not, craft or not - for significantly cheaper than in Ontario. $3 for a 6 pack. How ya like them apples?
Alan / July 19, 2012 at 01:00 pm
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I don't understand why everyone posting here thinks that replacing the Beer Store with for-profit retail will create some craft-beer-utopia.

It hasn't happened in any other retail market in Toronto. What makes beer magic?

Loblaws, Walmart, etc... are all about large brands that they can needle for steep discounts to improve their retail margin.

I guess they'll somehow act differently when selling beer?

If you think the Beer Store is a "steel door" try getting a product onto a Loblaws or Walmart shelf.

Ben - you should investigate how Chapter's manages it's retail. When you see what the real world looks like, the Beer Store will look like a saint in comparison.

Seriously people get a clue - retail is friggin vicious.
1 / July 19, 2012 at 01:04 pm
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I'm not sure how much blame the beer store, the lcbo or the non-discerning beer drinker deserve for the poor selection but I hate them. If it's not cost effective to offer a wide variety of craft beer, then let someone else take the risk. Surely Toronto has a large enough population of beer geeks to support one store like http://www.belmont-station.com/index.php?id=bottles
until then I given up trying to support craft beer here.
Colin Sick replying to a comment from Ted / July 19, 2012 at 01:15 pm
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Ted, I'm sure you do all you can to make sure your company is perceived as positively as possible, but the fact that you would come into this forum and try to explain that your selection is reasonable to the customer and/or the craft brewer is practically dishonest.

The fact of the matter is that there is no other retail environment like ours for beer and as soon as a customer experiences a better one (be that in a nearby state or province) they realize how much better we could have it.

Everyone appreciates donations to cancer research, please stop hiring assholes.
Alan Again / July 19, 2012 at 01:18 pm
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...also, everyone doing *price* comparisons is foolish, full-stop, period.

There are some good posts explaining why price comparisons are not straightforward.
Simon Tarses replying to a comment from Chris / July 19, 2012 at 01:59 pm
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Chris, I've got news for you and everybody else that thinks that Ontario is the ONLY place to be like this as far as serving booze is concerned:

Norway-Vinmonopolet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vinmonopolet)

Sweden-Systembolaget (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systembolaget]

Iceland-Vínbúðin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V%C3%ADnb%C3%BA%C3%B0)

Finland-Alko (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alko] (all of these are the ONLY places in the nations mentioned to buy wine, beer AND spirits, and all are owned directly by the goverment.)

Many of the nations mentioned also have the same laws against drinking outside of the premises as Ontario does as well. So, while you all decry both the LCBO and The Beer Store, please remember how worse it is in the nations I've shown here (especially considering these are the nations that most North Americans hold as being what North America should be more like in public policy and everything else!)

It's obviously going to take a lot of time to change opinions and minds as to how alcohol would (and will) be retailed, as well as consumed. We all (not me, because I don't consume alcohol as a matter of thumb for me, as I have medical problems, and I never developed a taste for spirits or beer) have to work hard at changing said attitudes toward how alcohol is served, consumed, and sold over the course of the 21st century (the same also applies to other drugs as well, but you don't need me to spell that obvious fact out.
Dick replying to a comment from Aaron / July 19, 2012 at 01:59 pm
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You don't need Organic Mexi-Tandoori Pringles. They're not Canadian. You should be eating Poutine Back Bacon flavour only! ;)

Seriously, maybe you can't find that Organic flavour everywhere because there isn't a big enough market for that package? So it's only available in selected stores that are big enough to have the shelf space to dedicate to a low return sku. It's highly unlikely you are going to find it at the corner variety store unless the owner also likes that flavour. Meaning you have to travel to get a specialty item.

Do you really believe we don't have monopoly grocery stores? Loblaws flies probably half a dozen different banners but at the end of the day they are all Loblaws. Same for Metro and Sobey's. Three big players for groceries in Ontario plus Walmart wherever they have grocery and that is certainly not everywhere. How is that so different from two for beer and booze?

Yes I would agree the hours suck but maybe people should plan a head a little bit. I don't know that any retailer stays open if there is not some profit in it for them. Not to mention that my guess would be that many customers late at night are quite possibly impaired (at least under current law). Also, don't try and tell me that the little local store has the variety and selection of some of the mass merchandisers in any retail field. In today's world of globalization what you want is not what you are going to get from retailers unless they see a way to profit from it.
Aaron / July 19, 2012 at 02:02 pm
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TRUTH: Beer store is a monopoly which benefits large Multi-National Brewers whose only will is to crush Craft Brewers. BUT: In reality, would a deregulated market help OCB's? Hard to believe. Like a deregulated market for..say clothing, any store can sell anything, anywhere. As such clusters based on dominant consumer groups form. E.G.>; In Yorkville you could visit an ALL Craft Brewers store, and at Dufferin Mall you could go to an ALL discount store. Access to Craft Beer, and soon amount of OCB competitors would go down as fewer and fewer 'regional' players would be able to gain scale. Your argument hinges on the regulations which are interjected in the fight between Multinationals and the OCB. Given Multi-billion dollar budgets of these Multinationals, you think OCB's would be BETTER off with less regulatory protection? (think...in the deregulated market, Molson [with its scale advantage] starts both the Wal-Mart and Banana Republic of Beer stores...Rule #1? No OCB's allowed). Don't believe me? Try the QC craft brewery market on for size. Shelf Space complaints? Try having your product wedged between the Cheetos and the Grape Soda. Lack of Marketing? The only beers that get front of house placement is Carling.
jay dee / July 19, 2012 at 03:28 pm
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Dan, You are so wrong. I just came from a trip to Gatineau and there is one convenience store there that has locked out the Molson's, Labatt's etc. to feature only small craft beers & wines at better prices than the monopoly & SAQ
Dick / July 19, 2012 at 03:32 pm
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Truth - Beer store is part of an oligopoly with the LCBO.

Other than that I agree that current rules in many ways allow the craft brewing industry to thrive in Ontario. If any domestic (Ontario) brewer chooses not to utilize the Beer Store for whatever reason that is not the fault of the Beer Store.
There are too many people who believe that 1) price will fall if beer is in corner store. It won't as long as price is regulated and uniform across the entire province.
2) That all craft brew is created at arms length from the big boys. There are many craft brewers who have some financial backing from the big three.
3) That the Beer Store has some sort of goal of eliminating craft brew. If that was the case they wouldn't have all the brews they currently carry now, it would be big three only.

Is it a perfect system, no. But if you think it would be better by just getting rid of it then think again. Perhaps there is a happy medium and ownership could be opened up but consider that right now the current owners take all the risk of running the system. If I was a craft brewer I'm not sure I would want to add that potential risk to my bottom line.
mikeb replying to a comment from Simon Tarses / July 19, 2012 at 03:45 pm
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You don't have to go to Scandinavia for examples of state liquor monopolies. They can be found much closer in PA:

http://www.finewineandgoodspirits.com/

Utah loosened up a bit recently, although it still has a lot strange regulations.

That said the LCBO & Beer Store duopoly is fairly unusual--especially giving all large foreign breweries their part of a beer duopoly.

I don't think you will find consensus on your other statement that Scandinavia is the place that "most" North Americans hold dear.
Simon Tarses replying to a comment from 1 / July 19, 2012 at 04:17 pm
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Why not just get up off of your ass, and brew your own?
BH / July 19, 2012 at 10:06 pm
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The Beer Store is an anachronism and lost cause unless it's totally overhauled whereas the LCBO is a profitable operation that suffers from excessive controls and rigid thinking at the top.

The LCBO could remain just as profitable as it is now and still make beer drinkers happy at the same time by lessening some of the rules and allowing beer-savvy people to make the ordering decisions. Wine and spirit people seem to be well taken care of.

But if the Beer Store ever pushes up the daisies I wouldn't even stop to piss on its grave.
1 replying to a comment from Simon Tarses / July 20, 2012 at 12:59 am
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You're right, Why don't I get off my ass and brew my own? Surely I could do as well as all the different professional brewers, I'd source the same materials, use the same equipment. I bet if I was nice and wrote to them they'd share whatever brewing secrets they had with me. And I'm sure all their experience doesn't give them that much of an advantage over a schmuck like me, all I have to do is get off my ass and brew my own. I really wish you had given me that pearl of wisdom earlier. I've wasted so many years drinking beer from the hacks at Rogue and Russian River and all I had to do was get off my ass and brew my own. Man wait till I tell my buddies how simple it is. I wonder if I could apply this wisdom to other areas in life. I've got a wedding coming up, maybe while I'm off my ass brewing world class beer I'll sew myself a tuxedo. I was thinking of flying commercial, but since I'm up brewing my beer and sewing my suit, maybe I'll just built a jet and learn to fly it. Thanks man that was great advice, there'll be no stopping me now!
Aaron / July 20, 2012 at 01:59 am
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The Beer Store defenders on here seem to fall into any or many of the following categories:

1) People who have never lived anywhere but Ontario or have rarely ventured outside of Ontario
2) People who seldom drink beer or don't drink at all
3) People who drink Bud Light and live right next door to a Beer Store
4) Beer Store employees and their lackeys
5) Saudi Arabians, Iranians, and that guy that recently moved here from Salt Lake City

There has not been one single compelling argument advanced which would indicate that the Beer Store is the way to go.
Dick replying to a comment from Aaron / July 20, 2012 at 09:42 am
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Upper Canada Lager is a Sleeman product not a Labatts.

My guess is that you would also be able to find a Mill St or Steam Whistle product in Huntsville since the Muskoka area is full of Torontonians for half the year.
Simon Tarses replying to a comment from Aaron / July 20, 2012 at 12:44 pm
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Aaron, I'm not defending The Beer Store, so don't lump me in with those that are, OK? I was just pointing out a similarity.
Simon Tarses replying to a comment from mikeb / July 20, 2012 at 12:54 pm
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Thanks for the info.

About the Scandinavia comment: I wasn't trying to insult Scandinavia, I was just saying that for such an enlightened continent, its nations seem to have very regressive liquor control regulations.
Aaron Ries replying to a comment from Aaron / July 20, 2012 at 01:28 pm
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Actually dude, if you had just read up, you would've seen that REAL Aaron's root there Beer Store defence in Economics and righteous protection of craft brews. Read the following comment to understand WHY its actually BAD for OCB's to deregulate:

TRUTH: Beer store is a monopoly which benefits large Multi-National Brewers whose only will is to crush Craft Brewers. BUT: In reality, would a deregulated market help OCB's? Hard to believe. Like a deregulated market for..say clothing, any store can sell anything, anywhere. As such clusters based on dominant consumer groups form. E.G.>;; In Yorkville you could visit an ALL Craft Brewers store, and at Dufferin Mall you could go to an ALL discount store. Access to Craft Beer, and soon amount of OCB competitors would go down as fewer and fewer 'regional' players would be able to gain scale. Your argument hinges on the regulations which are interjected in the fight between Multinationals and the OCB. Given Multi-billion dollar budgets of these Multinationals, you think OCB's would be BETTER off with less regulatory protection? (think...in the deregulated market, Molson [with its scale advantage] starts both the Wal-Mart and Banana Republic of Beer stores...Rule #1? No OCB's allowed). Don't believe me? Try the QC craft brewery market on for size. Shelf Space complaints? Try having your product wedged between the Cheetos and the Grape Soda. Lack of Marketing? The only beers that get front of house placement is Carling.

PS: you also claim that all Beer Store defenders have either NEVER lived out of Ontario, or, JUST moved here. So basically everyone in the world...?

Simon Tarses replying to a comment from 1 / July 20, 2012 at 08:13 pm
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Geez, you just gave up already? I would think that a person like you with a computer could do a Google search and just find the places in Toronto where you could buy the materials to brew your own beer-it shouldn't be THAT hard.
1 / July 20, 2012 at 08:56 pm
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As much as I appreciate your friendly encouragement, I don't want to brew beer, and I don't want to drink beer that I brew. I want a specific beer in a specific bottle.
dual diagnosis treatment / July 20, 2012 at 11:40 pm
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On this treatment period, the person 'll realize the good reason that he used drug use or alcohol. The professionals currently there need to understand that the participant tried to locate treatment for the mental disorder, on the contrary was unsuccessful.
MB / July 24, 2012 at 12:35 pm
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Great article and way to shed light on the struggles of Ontario craft beer/brewers. I completely support local businesses.

Seems like there's a lot of debate going on in the comments. Maybe you should post it on equibbly.com and let the public vote for who's right?
iSkyscraper / July 24, 2012 at 02:27 pm
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When I was younger, I also thought Brewer's Retail was a government store. Thanks for reminding us that it is not.

I moved to New York in 2000, around the time that craft beers started taking off in the US. When I lived in Toronto I never cared about selection but now I'm seriously into brews like Unibroue and Dogfish Head. While you can get beer at many retail stores in New York like any product most places carry a limited selection of big brands and you have to go to the more "gourmet" spots (be it an enterprising deli, upscale supermarket, wine store, specialty store, whatever) to get the good stuff. People are free to shop where they want when they want for what they want. Works fine.

Somehow, I've never minded the LCBO monopoly. I think there is still an argument to be made there for a couple different reasons and even as a form of "sin tax", well, so be it. But beer should be freed of its bonds. Kill the Beer Store and let anyone sell beer.
Beer Belly / July 24, 2012 at 03:53 pm
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We are fortunate that many craft brewers (like small wineries) have small retail stores. Find a brew you like that is close by and stock up. Tell all your friends. Repeat.

Until the monopoly is disbanded (ie never?) the best way to support small breweries: word of mouth advertising and putting your money (or beer) where your mouth is!
bugeyed / July 25, 2012 at 03:05 am
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I come from the UK and I cannot believe that in a modern society that we are not able to make our own choices on this subject ? Why is it not possible for me as a grown consenting (tax paying) adult to be able to choose for myself how and where I can purchase beer/alcohol? As others have mentioned, why is this 'we know best' attitude still allowed ? If it were simply a matter of social responsibility then the govt would (arguably should in some instances) have legislated to control/limit the supply of other 'harmful' substances in food stuffs and products we purchase , and as a result we would all live happy, long lives untouched by trans fats, additives and the like which are all not good for us.

Social responsibility has been used as a fig leaf for too long to cover the fact that the system is anachronistic and needs to be brought out of the 19th Century, and give us, the consumers a choice we are currently denied.

The last time I looked this wasn't Russia, we don't need totalisitc state (or beer co troika for that matter) control of something as banal as beer, tax it by all means, just relax the methods by which it can be purchased, and treat us like the adults we are, not as kids, who need to be told when to put the lid on the cookie jar.
Ben / July 25, 2012 at 07:41 am
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The response to this article and continued conversation in the comments has been phenomenal. It's awesome to see Ontario's beer drinkers are so passionate about it. In case anyone is coming back to read comments, I thought I'd share this interesting article from the CBC this morning.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2012/07/25/toronto-beer-stores.html
Paul / July 25, 2012 at 10:12 am
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Apparently drinking beer is serious business for some people.

The system is fine the way it is. All this "but my rights as a beer drinker" talk is retarded. The Beer Store and LCBO business work fine and there's no need to change them.

Additionally, Craft/micro/whatever brewery terms are meaningless as everyone defines it their own way and only serve to reenforce a false sense of elitism.

Here's an example. Moosehead produces less beer than Sierra Nevada, which is claimed as a craft brewery based on volume. That's absurd, because Moosehead must therefore be a craft brewery based on volume. The delineating factor is that they use adjunct and therefore aren't considered craft.

Hop City is owned by Moosehead and doesn't use adjunct. The parent company is theoretically small enough to be considered a craft brewery in its own right barring the use of adjunct. So what exactly is Hop City? Some kind of mash tun parade for indigent brewmasters?

Look at Molson and Creemore and the Kellerbier. Didn't exist until Molson bought them. Sometimes huge conglomerates do good things.
1 replying to a comment from Paul / July 25, 2012 at 10:35 am
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Paul I'm sure you're a smart guy but you don't know anything about beer.
Simon Tarses replying to a comment from 1 / July 25, 2012 at 02:17 pm
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Neither do you, even though I told you what you can do to brew your own beer.
Lawrence replying to a comment from Simon Tarses / July 25, 2012 at 03:59 pm
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Sounds like there's a ripe dispute here that should be posted on eQuibbly.com and let the public decide who knows what they're talking about.
1 replying to a comment from Simon Tarses / July 25, 2012 at 10:05 pm
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I only need to know what I like.
More Bonuses / August 1, 2012 at 12:10 am
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Michael Harris / August 2, 2012 at 01:24 pm
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Living in Canada I've grow accustomed to always hearing smart answers to WHY things are the way they are [expensive]. Beer and alcohol sales included. Increasingly, our government has been taking liberties telling us what is in our own best interests. The main reason the government is opposed to independent sale of alcohol is to protect their own best interests and maintain their firm grasp over the market. Sound familiar phone users?

The argument that craft breweries would be most negatively impacted is simply not valid. Just the other day in Chicago I went to the Jewel-Osco (comparable to Metro), and to my delight, right next to all the big brand name beer was a very impressive wall display of all craft brews from the region and beyond. If anything, craft brewers would have an easier time getting their product to local consumers without jumping through hoops in order to get theirs onto LCBO shelves.

Please Free Our beer!
John / August 18, 2012 at 02:24 am
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It's a near-illegal monopoly that needs to be challenged in court. Alas however, the said multinational brewers line the pockets of politicans of all stripes, and Ontarians are a dumb, malleable townfolk who love to throw rocks out of their glass houses at other jurisdictions.

Sad to say, it will be here forever. Even when the issue does come up, the hicks choose to breathe their fire on the LCBO, which despite it's own monopoly, actually serves a social purpose rather than controlling the sale of a product and funneling it to a foreign country. Sad. I realize the sale of beer is not our province's most pressing need, but this longtime economic rape and complete compliance really says a lot about the province's citizens.
Brad / August 30, 2012 at 03:10 pm
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I currently work at the beer store, and nothing in that article was mentioned about the pay for employees. As it was mentioned, we are NOT government run, and in turn make Minimum wage. We do not get a raise until 1 year of service, and when we do it is barely noticeable. We have basically no opportunity to move forward in the company- All my fellow employees have worked for 5 + years without being able to change their title from "Temporary" to "permanent part time" or better yet "permanent full time". This means after 5 years if service they get no benefits, no paid time off and are still required to work evenings and weekends. This company makes enough money that they would afford to pay their employees accordingly. We take back all of the LCBO's empties which is an extremely exhausting, disgusting and frustrating job, which is only made more complicated by lack of appropriate staffing availability (based on hours allowed by upper management) and customer disconcern/ignorance for appropriate sorting. This job is much harder and stressful than it may seem, and we work our butts off for the minimum pay available in this provice. Consider this before you take back your empties and buy some beer and complain about a line up on the long weekend.
Brad replying to a comment from Aaron / August 30, 2012 at 03:19 pm
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I work at the beer store and do not defend any of the arguments of beer store supporters, you may want to re-sonsider who is defending this company and their actions- we are just as much, if not more affected than just regular customers- we only have the beer store and the LCBO to choose from too.
Brad replying to a comment from Aaron / August 30, 2012 at 03:19 pm
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I work at the beer store and do not defend any of the arguments of beer store supporters, you may want to re-sonsider who is defending this company and their actions- we are just as much, if not more affected than just regular customers- we only have the beer store and the LCBO to choose from too.
Derek / December 10, 2012 at 04:54 pm
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I think you are all forgeting but the Beer Store is a great suporter of a green environment and charities like the Leukemia Bottle Drive which raised 1.6 million dollars for cancer research in 2012. Every year for the past 5 years they have beaten their goal and have exceded their funds from the previous year. Put beer in corner stores and that all disapears and yes I work for the beer store !!!
Ally replying to a comment from Paul / December 15, 2012 at 12:56 pm
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I agree with your statements Paul. Most people here have no idea what they are talking about, seeing as they are not involved in the industry and are probably reading a bunch of garbled articles online to fuel their argument.

This was taken from a recent letter to the editor of the Toronto Star from our awesome President.
'Looking at the cost of beer comparison between Quebec/NY/Ontario a lot of it has to do with taxes. If they decide to sell beer in corner stores the price will not go down. The biggest driver of beer prices in Canada is our high tax rates.

Ontario commodity taxes alone on a case of 24 cans total $9.81. In New York state the commodity taxes are only .32/case, or 3% of the Ontario taxes. In Quebec, the provincial commodity taxes equal $4.26/case, or only 43% of the Ontario rate. Ontario needs to cut its beer tax levels.'

*On a side note, I wish they would do an 'Undercover Boss" for The Beer Store for the pure purpose of customers seeing what its like. Most people have no clue what is involved in working there. Remember, it's not the LCBO which has at least 7/8 staff members all the time (just stocking and scanning) We are mostly understaffed and overworked(although we can handle it so it continues). The employees that are getting paid as well as you think have been there over 15 yrs. Everyone starts at minimum wage...unlike the LCBO.

Most of us are hard workers that love our jobs, and of course like anyone would, we might get frustrated by customers complaining to us about prices/empties procedures..especially when there are more important issues in the world to complain about:)
Me / December 15, 2012 at 03:00 pm
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I get a laugh out of all the whining myself as I never found buying beer such a hardship as so many seem to.
krystal / January 5, 2013 at 04:46 pm
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Despite all the complaints thrown around about TBS there has not been much, if any, mention about the amount of jobs created every year with new stores opening. If you believe that the more than 3000+++ jobs at TBS would be maintained when alcohol moved into convenience and private stores, you are delusional. Mom and Pop who own a convenience store are not hiring 10 more staff members, they are working and raking in the money, but not creating jobs, or mainting them. The line-up for government assistance, E.I and everyother avenue unemployed people use would be increased by a good number of the staff. Thats not the only reason to think long and hard about the services provided at TBS, the recycling set-up is not something that a small store can take on, so now returns would be limited to certain locations, if at all, or another company would take over, meaning possibilities of increased deposits placed on your purchases. Those who work in the industry know that its not perfect and there are flaws, as with all companies, but as was mentioned in an earlier comment, the taxes placed on alcohol are the real culprit, but heres the catch 22- we enjoy paid healthcare, look up some stats on where $$$ from these products go...we need to pay the taxes somewhere, whether it be property taxes increasing or taxes off the bottom line on our paychecks...we are going to pay it somewhere...all the comments about staff at TBS being horrible and getting paid big bucks to be rude and give customers a terrible experience could be said about a lot of business`, who doesnt have a complaint about service from a restaurant, from a vacation they went on, from somewhere...as far as pay goes, yes if you are full-time, and have stuck it out through the years, through the minimum wage, you get paid decently, especially in this day and age when university students are ending up working at fast food restaurants, and there are no jobs for teachers. You need to have some understanding and appreciation for the amount of work done by employees at TBS, as aforementioned, its not the LCBO, there are never 7 employees working, unless its the day before a stat holiday, there is a lot of beer to unload and then restock shelves, part of the problem is that people within the company did lack the forethought about set-up, but be that as it may the stores are as they are, and staff try to make the best of it. There are empties that have to be sorted six ways from sunday, that takes time, its a great project but very labour intensive.
Plus the most important thing-customers, unfortunately they do get staff with attitudes sometimes, it shouldnt happen, but this is reality and it does. Everywhere.
All this being said- i agree that changes can be made to improve service and beer selection...many of the complaints i have read can be addressed or have a reason why they arent,
one fact to remember-TBS may be owned by the big three, BUT it is governed by the LCBO, the government. The big three may be many things, but they are allowed to be whatever they are by those governing us.
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Ray / April 2, 2013 at 06:15 pm
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I, like Brad am an employee at TBS. I do not support any of the arguments for TBS and believe the entire system needs an overhaul. I work at one of the busiest store's and it can be incredibly stressful, especially if you are working empties. We are always understaffed and are paid a pittance. We work very very hard in a job that is thankless, smelly, disgusting, depressing and physically exhausting. Customers returning empties are generally inconsiderate and often do not follow the rules of sorting. This creates large lines and the customers become increasingly hostile and at times verbally abusive. On occasion people bring empties back that are crawling with cock roaches, barf, cigarette butts half eaten food etc. When told that we will not take them back due to it being a bio hazard they become unruly. Do not even get me started on the bottle collectors who dig through peoples garbage. When people on this thread complaign about the attitudes of TBS employees my blood begins to boil. Attitudes of the customers (especially those returning empties) needs to change. My manager is a wonderful man and for the most part I like and respect my co-workers. The corporate culture and upper management needs to change like you would not believe. They do not care about us at all and are emblematic of the worst possible traits of capitalism. Their greed and shameless profiteering off our backs is blood curdling given the responsibilities we have. When returning bottles I humbly ask you to please sort your bottles at home. I will give you some tips; keep each brand with its own. Count your cans and put them in a bag, hand them to the employee and give them a number. Seperate glass from plastic and don't puke on your empties. If you pull your end I gaurantee you that your experience at the beer store will be quick easy and pleasant. It doesn't have to be a bad experience, it does go both ways. Thanks and have a good one.
chan / April 17, 2013 at 12:16 pm
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I just would like to add the fact – as a bar owner- that the beer store (tbs) charges much much more for a case of beer, than the lcbo. On thursday april 11, 2013 tbs delivered fee for a case of blue or budweiser is $44.75 including deposit. Lcbo fee (pickup only) is $30.95. however I cannot purchase beer from the lcbo or I would lose my liquor licence. As a result I have to support a bloated foreign owned monopoly, and I end up passing the costs on to you the consumer….I don't think we have to "do away" with the beer store - just allow the LCBO to sell to Licencees (and take empties).
How does everyone feel about this?
Me / May 15, 2013 at 05:56 pm
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BooFuckingHoo. Maybe one day we Ontarians will find something real to whine about.
Kurt Penney / October 30, 2013 at 07:14 pm
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I had an incident at one of the beer stores near where I live/work. Here is a portion of that letter:

I always walk around with these little index cards with 中文 on one side and English on the other. Long story short, I forgot one of bundles (ie 40+ index cards = 10 + hours)at one of the beer stores. I had a feeling that I was missing one of my bundles, but because I`ve been busy with grading as of late, I didn’t have time to look for it. I assumed it was around the house. But no! It was at the Beer Store. I know now because last night, one of the employees finally mentioned to me,
“Hey. Did you get your little Chinese thingy you left here?” (Or something to that effect.) I was immediately imbued with joy. Then he went to look for it. Only to return with, “Sorry. Looks like it’s not here anymore. It’s possible that it might have been thrown out by now. It was about a week ago.” When I asked him why he didn’t say something, he responded with that he thought I would have noticed/asked. He then said that he’d leave a note. They know (of) me. I’m a regular “4 (to 6) cans of tall Stella”…3-5 times a week. I always rinse and crush my 100+ cans and return them neatly.
They always see me practicing my Chinese. One of the employees (very nice chap) even talked to me about how he can speak a little Cantonese. Again, because it is (mid-town and) not close to the subway, the customers there are 90+% regulars.

The following day, I go in and do a little follow up. After all, the first employee had said that he would put up a sign asking around. As it turns out, it’s most likely gone. In fact, I was told, “If it’s not here (as he motions around
the inside of the counter), then it’s in the dumpster outside.” That one actually made me smile/laugh. I added, “I’m not going to go dumpster diving”.
______________________________________________________

Then someone from their customer service department named “Cat” (Isn’t this funny?) wrote back asking me to snitch out who those employees are. I responded with the following:

What a joke. What's in it for me other than possibly putting myself into harm’s way. Do I sound so daft that they/you think that your feeble attempt at imbuing me with this false sense of power is going to leave me feeling vindicated? That's almost as funny as your slogan "Customer Service is Our Priority", and I can't stop laughing.

I wasn't born yesterday, but I was born long enough ago to remember the horrible service Bell Canada used to provide (in the 70's). I'm sure you get the reference, right? That's why in my initial letter I used the word "decent" because the best one can hope for when dealing with you(r team). They did it because they can, and they will continue to do it. Furthermore, if you replace them, the new guys/gals will do the same...eventually.

"Customer Service is Our Priority" is what you say, and I agree with it, but I think you should amend it with "But it's not one of our top priorities."

Professor K. Penney
Kurt Penney / October 30, 2013 at 07:15 pm
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oop.s. I meant to begin it with: Here is a portion of the letter I wrote in to complain...
Kurt replying to a comment from Kurt Penney / November 1, 2013 at 10:04 pm
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oop.s. In their defense, I would argue that beer store workers put up with a lot unnecessary duress (ie crap). My gf used to work at the post office, so I know all too well how citizens feel the right to dump on government workers. Throw in your empties' riff raff and you have a real nightmare in the works. So hats off to the beer store employees. My battles is not with them, per se, but with the system itself.
jeff / January 20, 2014 at 11:54 pm
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Just to let you all know. Beer Store employees make minimum wage. 20 cents more to be exact.

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