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Eat & Drink

What are the best & worst LCBO locations in Toronto?

Posted by Derek Flack / January 29, 2013

LCBONot all LCBO locations are created equally. Sure there's some consistency when it comes to main brands of booze on offer, but given varying floor space, the selection varies considerably from store to store. Then's there's the Vintages issue — you know that fancy wood-paneled area that the wine snobs flock to? The best stores have sprawling Vintages areas, where you can buy wine and spirits that the LCBO buys on a one-off basis (as opposed to the perpetually replenished regular stock), not all of which is particularly expensive. Variety is the spice of life, guys — especially when it comes to liquor, so those little stores that only have a shelf or two of Vintages offerings can get pretty boring.

There are, of course, other factors to be considered. Line-ups (here's looking at you Atrium on Bay), the general seediness of the location (Hi, Galleria Mall) and the hours of operation (would everyone suddenly become an alcoholic if more locations were open past 9pm?).

Because we hate science, we decided to conduct a Twitter poll to get to the bottom of this all important question: what are the best and worst LCBO locations. Here are some general observations:

Best candidates

Summerhill / Scrivner Square
Queens Quay
Bayview Village
St. Lawrence Market (post-reno)

Worst candidates

Galleria Mall
Spadina & Baldwin
Atrium on Bay
North York Centre
Maple Leaf Gardens
Gerrard and Pape
All of them (blah, blah, blah monopolies)

What do you think? Got a candidate to add to these lists? Let us know in the comments.

Discussion

87 Comments

Nick / January 29, 2013 at 10:55 am
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Albion Centre Mall might be the worst.

2 more candidates for best: Avenue Rd near Lawrence, Bloor near Royal York.
Meg / January 29, 2013 at 10:59 am
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Yonge & Eglinton has the worst staff! They open at 10 so I was waiting outside to pick up something for my boss before work, and there seemed to be a lot of 'regulars' waiting to go in as well. After we got in, I was waiting at the checkout and the big man working there called out to the regulars "Look at you all pushing in here... your tongues are wagging to the floor" etc. It was disgusting, first & last time there!
chop block / January 29, 2013 at 11:04 am
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Galleria Mall isn't particularly seedy, you're just uncomfortable around old Portuguese people. That said, the beer selection at its LCBO leaves something to be desired.
Ben / January 29, 2013 at 11:07 am
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There's nothing wrong with the Galleria Mall LCBO. It's clean, big enough to have reasonable stock (including more beers than many larger locations) and the staff is great.

And if you are going to complain about liquor monopolies, pile on The Beer Store, not the LCBO.
josh / January 29, 2013 at 11:08 am
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Bloor & Ossy is TERRIBLE
RS / January 29, 2013 at 11:08 am
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No mention of Summerhill for one of the best?
Stewart replying to a comment from RS / January 29, 2013 at 11:13 am
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Read the title of this article.
RS replying to a comment from RS / January 29, 2013 at 11:15 am
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Never mind. Coffee first, THEN comment. LOL
RS replying to a comment from Stewart / January 29, 2013 at 11:16 am
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Noticed afterwards. My bad. :)
d.a.r.y.l. / January 29, 2013 at 11:19 am
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The Mimico liquor store is awful. Not only do they not carry Bulleit bourbon (even while the lcbo was marketing the hell out of it)- the lifer working there had never heard of it.
But I guess that's my fault for living in Mimico.
Al / January 29, 2013 at 11:20 am
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They do a much better job than The Beer Store.
Skye / January 29, 2013 at 11:22 am
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Yonge and Summerhil is the best, followed closely by the one at Bayview Village.

Can we get a moment of silence for the shuttered Yonge and Davisville location, now bulldozed to make way for (you guessed it) a condo? It was huge, bright, great vintages section and friendly staff to boot. Alas.

As for worst: the one near St. Clair West and Winona definitely gets sketchy after dark. I've seen more than one drunken fight outside.
Ro / January 29, 2013 at 11:27 am
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The one next to Yonge/Bloor subway station. It's tiny and there is grumpy people working at the cash all the time.
Shannon / January 29, 2013 at 11:28 am
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The LCBO at Spadina and King is quite nice. It's relatively new but gets super busy on Friday's at 5pm!
alky / January 29, 2013 at 11:35 am
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Out of LCBOs I've gone to Ossington/Bloor is by far the worst. It's tiny and the stock is always picked over, also incredibly dirty.

Best is liberty village. New, huge store, fantastic beer selection.
skeeter / January 29, 2013 at 11:40 am
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The new LCBO at Broadview and Danforth is opening soon. It appears as though it'll be a good one. Can we pick temporary locations while main store is being built as a worst? If so, the tiny closet of a store just west of there sucks balls.
Ling Gu / January 29, 2013 at 11:40 am
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Agreed, the LCBO stores at Summerhill and Bayview Village are both outstanding. The North York Centre location is simply too small, although I have purchased some wine and the odd craft beer from there.
TG / January 29, 2013 at 11:42 am
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Bloor and Ossington, terrible selection. So small that they have to hire police offices to form a lineup of customers down the street on long weekends/holidays. Galleria shouldn't be on the list, area isn't great but their selection is not bad for a nanny-state alcohol distribution facility.
vino / January 29, 2013 at 11:42 am
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Queen & Coxwell is pretty decent.
Spacious, nice vintages section.
Not as many seedy characters
Mark / January 29, 2013 at 11:44 am
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There is nothing wrong with the store on Bloor near Royal York.
Alex / January 29, 2013 at 11:44 am
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In my opinion, the LCBO located at Dufferin and Wilson in North York is the best. Not only is store clean, and well attended to, but the selection is amazing. This location has one of the largest selections of KOSHER wines as well, and the beer section one of the largest I have seen.

The LCBO outside the Promenade Mall (I know in Thornhill, outside Toronto) is very large similar to the Dufferin and Wilson location.
to455 / January 29, 2013 at 11:44 am
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pretty sure the spadina and nassau one is the worst. lived nearby and dreaded going there every single timne.
L-Side / January 29, 2013 at 11:48 am
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They are in the process of building one of the biggest LCBO's in the province up in Leaside.
Should be ready by the summer.

That one will surely be a pretty nice spot.
Frank / January 29, 2013 at 11:56 am
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Ossington and Bloor 100% is the worst.
Hey / January 29, 2013 at 11:57 am
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Spadina & King is a nice ish store but the lines in late afternoon to evening Thursday, Friday, and Saturday are insane. Not exactly surprising with the number of condo buildings full of 20 & 30 somethings just a few blocks away.

So many "worst" LCBOs. Yonge & Eg is really bad, as is the temporary one that replaced Yonge & Davisville.

First Canadian is a hidden gem if you're looking for interesting higher end wine. Absolutely no room at all, but great if you're in a bank tower and have a couple hundred or more to spend.
Frank / January 29, 2013 at 11:58 am
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Royal York and Bloor is very good.
Kevin / January 29, 2013 at 12:04 pm
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Worst in the west end: Bloor-Ossy (ugly, small, outdated)

Worst in the east end: Coxwell/O'Connor, good size, hasn't been updated since the early 80s, not maintained well either.

Worst for overcrowding (too small to meet demand): Atrium

Worst for in the core (looks/size): Chinatownw or Yonge/Wellesley


Best overall: Summerhill

Best Downtown: Manulife or St. Lawrence

Best in the west: Liberty Village

Best in the east: Queen/Coxwell
John Coates / January 29, 2013 at 12:05 pm
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+1 on Leaside. A great selection (beer is always good there) and I have heard they plan on building a big one there too.
James / January 29, 2013 at 12:06 pm
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Derek,

Just a thought; how about a follow-up to this piece where you turn over the results to the LCBO and get their comment on what they are going to do to improve "The Worst" stores.
over replying to a comment from Kevin / January 29, 2013 at 12:07 pm
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Agreed, thse all jive.

We can stop the comments now
Dyanna / January 29, 2013 at 12:09 pm
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WORST: Forest Hill!!!!
Rob / January 29, 2013 at 12:10 pm
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I don't think any of them are bad. If I want bottom rail, I can go to any of them. If I want something decent, I'll check online and go to that store. Lines, customer service, blah. It's not like you're hanging out in there asking for recommendations for a half hour and it's not like you HAVE to go on Fridays at 6PM or the day before Thanksgiving.
CaligulaJones / January 29, 2013 at 12:17 pm
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Worst: Danforth and Greenwood (seedy-wise), although the crowd next door at the Brewer's Retail out-seeds them.
B / January 29, 2013 at 12:33 pm
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Weston & 401 LCBO is huge and has a great selection.
talbot / January 29, 2013 at 12:34 pm
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I find nothing wrong with the Galleria LCBO. Always clean and organized, staff are really nice, and it has some of the latest hours in the city (which is a huge plus). Just because it is attached to a weird mall filled with hideous clothing shops should not affect it's rating.
Don / January 29, 2013 at 12:36 pm
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@blogTO #LCBO We need more... East of Victoria park.. :-) But I honestly see no reason why they need to expand.. They only get very busy 4-5 days a year...
Missedthebus / January 29, 2013 at 12:38 pm
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Tied for worst: Bloor/Ossington, and the one inside the Loblaws at Bathurst/St.Clair.
Margaret / January 29, 2013 at 12:44 pm
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The LCBO under the Bay at Yonge and Bloor is way too small and crowded. The convenience factor of an afterwork purchase on the way to the subway is negated by the extremely long line for the cash.
Rick / January 29, 2013 at 12:51 pm
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Yonge and Wellesley gets my vote for the worst.
Ryan / January 29, 2013 at 12:52 pm
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LCBO @ Shops at Don Mills is great. Big, good selection, and amazing, fast staff.
Chris on Bay Street / January 29, 2013 at 12:56 pm
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King & Spadina because I can roll out of bed and be there in 5 minutes flat.
Mr Kanyo / January 29, 2013 at 01:06 pm
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Props to Liberty Village for their vintages section. Leslie is great to talk to if you need a recommendation. Lots of relatively small orders of interesting wines come in. They've had a few great Washington reds in the last little while.
bob loblaw / January 29, 2013 at 01:28 pm
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NE corner of Finch and Vic Park. Sketchy and scary.
dr.fever / January 29, 2013 at 01:29 pm
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Bloor and Ossington is pretty bad. Grumpy staff, terrible selection, way too cramped.
Andrea replying to a comment from Alex / January 29, 2013 at 01:35 pm
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+1 on the beer section at the Dufferin and Wilson store.

The beer section is a large refrigerated room that stocks some obscure stuff, both Canadian and imported. This excited my beer nerd boyfriend, who pointed out beers that he didn't know that the LCBO even carried. We wouldn't have discovered it if not for a visit to Costco, after which we were looking for a nearby LCBO.

Of course, you can search for products on the LCBO website before you go and make a game of it.

The Dufferin and Wilson LCBO is just west of Wilson subway station, making it convenient for the many carless citizens among us.
W. K. Lis / January 29, 2013 at 01:41 pm
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The interior of the Crossroads store (Weston & 401) is fine. However, being a big box store means one needs a car to get to it, its located in the far back of an asphalt desert.
Amit / January 29, 2013 at 01:44 pm
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I was the North York Centre LCBO picking up a couple of beers with my puppy and had a horrible customer service incident. I was carrying my puppy around (she's tiny - just 4 lb) and I put her on ground when it was my turn to pay. When I turned around to check on her, I accidentally scraped her paw with my shoe. My puppy let out a yelp but was fine right after. However, the lady at the checkout (Shahla) went total apeshit on me while my puppy is back to loving life. If you've owned small dogs, you know such accidents happen occasionally. She said she loves dogs and can't stand dog abusers who can't take good care of their dogs! She added that she would totally call animal services if she wasn't working there. I'm sure she isn't a dog owner herself, but went out on a limb to call me incompetent and abusive to my little puppy. Being subject to uncalled judgment is not my idea of a shopping trip. Some of the other staff members are a lot nicer but this was a total WTF moment. Little does she know my pup gets all the love in the world with the best food I can afford and several dog training courses to keep her mentally engaged. I have YouTube videos of her with thousands of hits showcasing her living life to its fullest.

My story aside, it's the worst LCBO I've been to in the GTA region: it's small, the layout is awkward, the selection is limited and it's always running low on the basics. They also need a way to allow customers to enter from the mall exterior, freeing up the entrance where lineups are the norm.
duder / January 29, 2013 at 02:01 pm
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Obviously Summerhill is the best. Only problem is that it's at Summerhill.

My vote for the worst is the Yonge and Wellesley location. Always packed full of bums, no room to and not particularly clean. Staff are ok, though.

Don't really see the hate for Maple Leaf Gardens. Not the greatest selection, but not the worst, either. Nice wide aisles, staff are friendly. It's nice to be able to grab booze while you're doing your grocery shopping, too.
mikeb / January 29, 2013 at 02:24 pm
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St Clair and Alberta is the worst due to the horrible selection and some real creeps outside of it. Being so bad means you either have to go to other nearby bad ones or make the nightmarish trek to Keele and St Clair.

Summerhill, Queens Quai, Bayview Village and Weston are all quite good. Summerhill wins, being the most accessible by transit and always having a room for parking.

That said All of them (blah, blah, blah monopolies)
K-Borg / January 29, 2013 at 02:30 pm
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Personal Favourite: Bay/Bloor in the basement of the Manulife Centre. I'll grab what I need on my lunch break to avoid lines. It's big, bright, clean and has an excellent selection.

Worst: Bloor/Oss. I live a block from this one and try to avoid it at all costs. Don't even bother going in there after 7 on a Fri or Sat. They're out of nearly everything by then.
R.Gray / January 29, 2013 at 02:44 pm
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Worst: LCBO Store # 485 : COXWELL & O'CONNOR. 1009 COXWELL AVENUE..... It's just a dumpy store!
Rick replying to a comment from duder / January 29, 2013 at 02:50 pm
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Agreed. Yonge/Wellesley is a bad store, but the staff is pretty good.
Banditt / January 29, 2013 at 03:05 pm
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Queen and Lee is my candidate for worst in the city. Terrible selection, horrible staff.
Sad / January 29, 2013 at 03:07 pm
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I miss Page @ the Wellesley store. She brought waaay better wines in and was really knowledgable. Hailey isy new favorite. But yeah the store is the worst
Matt / January 29, 2013 at 03:10 pm
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I am thrilled to see The Galleria 'Mall' location at Dufferin and Dupont here. It is BRUTAL... honourable mention to the Wellesley and Yonge location as well. If only it wasn't such a monopoly...
Jakob / January 29, 2013 at 03:19 pm
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Yonge & Wellesley is definitely terrible. You know something's wrong if the "Ontario Craft Beer" section is mostly filled with generic global brands (and actual craft beers are close to non-existent).
huh? replying to a comment from Skye / January 29, 2013 at 03:33 pm
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Whaaa - the former Davisville & Eglinton LCBO bulldozed to make way for condos? Try again... more like temporarily reduced in size and soon to be expanded again with a new,lower single story section. New inhabitants will be a large-format BMO and other retail.
ritz / January 29, 2013 at 04:05 pm
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I like College and Euclid because it was NEEDED!
Small store but it filled a void.
Skye replying to a comment from huh? / January 29, 2013 at 04:18 pm
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Well, I hope you're right. That's not the buzz on the street!...the silver lining is the staff at the temporary LCBO up the street told me the condo is to have ground-floor retail and that the flagship store will be the LCBO. So it's only temporary...ah, first world problems.
Denis / January 29, 2013 at 04:42 pm
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Danforth has both the worst and may have the best. The new/old location near Broadview and Danforth is pretty bad as was the old/old across the street before it closed. Then we have the new/new location opening just east of Broadview and Danforth. Although it will not jive with the street landscape.
Cam / January 29, 2013 at 07:48 pm
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Worst: the one in Albion Mall. Because Albion Mall has the worst of everything.
Cam / January 29, 2013 at 07:50 pm
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Oh, and Royal York and Bloor for best.
Matt / January 29, 2013 at 07:51 pm
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I have a soft spot for the Spadina/Baldwin location, but it really is awful. Atrium has a very good beer selection (especially considering its size), but the lines can be atrocious. Manulife Centre never seems to be busy and has great selection - it just always takes me awhile to find the place.
BP / January 29, 2013 at 09:14 pm
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A few that should be given "best" that are not mentioned already is the one in Roncesvalles(Bloor & Dundas) and the one in Leaside(Laird & Eglinton)and the one at King & Spadina - all great stores, super staff, and fantastic selection. I kind of like the 'charm' of Galleria - and surprisingly - it does have one of the best beer selections. For a tiny store, the one at HBC, does a great job and the one located at RBC (in the PATH) has a great beer section. In Scarborough, the one at Kennedy Commons has a decent selection and on the border - the one at Markham & Steeles is quite fine.

Worst - Jane & Wilson - just scary - cop on duty all the time. Dundas & Dovercourt - trendy area but not in this LCBO. Selection is limited. Leslie & York Mills - new store but small selection. Eglinton & Brimley - too close to a needle house. Sandhurst - terrible selection.
JASMIN1 / January 29, 2013 at 10:32 pm
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WHO CARES WHATS THE WORST LCBO... YOU'LL STILL GO IN TO GET BOOZE WHEN YOU WANT TO....
Indian Source / January 30, 2013 at 05:39 am
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ShawnyJ / January 30, 2013 at 07:36 am
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Royal York and Bloor is my go-to store. It's not as big as Summerhill or Queen's Quay, but they have a good selection of premium and vintage labels and I can be in and out in 5 minutes if I know what I want. Summerhill and Queen's Quay are fun destinations , but they require some time to shop.

alex / January 30, 2013 at 09:40 am
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The nice thing is that LCBO caters to the local community, so the LCBO just north of yonge/drewry often has hard to find russian and ukrainian vodka as well as georgian wines.
Brian / January 30, 2013 at 09:47 am
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College and Euclid.

For many years if you lived in little Italy and wanted a bottle of wine you had a minimum 1.2km walk to the nearest LCBO (Spadina, Bloor and Ossington, Dundas and Ossington), all of which are pretty awful in their own ways.

The LCBO then dropped a tiny store in with a very limited selection, and few high end products despite being a fairly affluent neighborhood. If you want a tallboy and a $9 bottle of wine, this is the place for you. Well, unless you go after work or anytime Friday when the lineup goes to the back of the store and wraps back around a bit.

Chaplin Estate Guy replying to a comment from Skye / January 30, 2013 at 10:23 am
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Sure miss the old Davisville & Yonge LCBO. The replacement at Manor Road & Yonge is pathetic. Staff are decent people though. Hope something happens at the old site. It's been empty for almost two years. You really wonder what the owner is doing.
BTW, honorable mention to the Leaside LCBO on Laird. The Vintages guy does a great job. And yes they're moving into a bigger store at that plaza.
former LCBO employee / January 30, 2013 at 02:13 pm
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Used to work at the atrium location. Worst store ever. The manager was shit and the staff are treated very badly especially when compared to how well the other LCBO locations treat their staff. Had the worst experience ever working there. Have since quit the board and will never go back. They honestly couldn't care less about customer service at that location.
Tim / January 31, 2013 at 05:37 pm
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I much like my local LCBO — the one at Woodside Square in Scarborough.
Paul / February 1, 2013 at 04:01 pm
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Coxwell and O'Connor, while hardly the worst, doesn't compare to the newer ones. But for us East Yorkers, it is on the LCBO's upgrade list, now that they own both the building and the parking lot.

Source - friend who works at LCBO head office.
Marc / February 2, 2013 at 01:07 pm
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Yorkgate Mall, it's lower stock and just a bad location. The LCBO's con is that it's a gov't monopoly, but what mostly makes a bad LCBO branch is the location or design, as well as customer service or product. The Summerhill branch is just immoral, because it should grow up and be (return to be) a much-needed train terminal for the whole Toronto.
karen / September 27, 2013 at 01:21 am
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worst ever North York Centre lousy customer service and some serious attitude, no one is happy in this store, barely professional. I know dealing with the public is not overly fun somedays but it's your job if u don't like it quit. Not once has an employee taken my proffered bag and put my sixty dollar purchase in it. you are left to pay an d then quickly jam your stuff in the bag while they take on the next customer. I have even seen staff having words with eachother in front of customers, ridiculous
suzy / November 25, 2013 at 01:46 pm
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Jane and Wilson have ridiculous line-ups ... if you go n on a Saturday expect to wait 30 minutes at least
Simon Tarses replying to a comment from Jakob / November 25, 2013 at 02:24 pm
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That's just punishment for your being a beer snob.
ds / April 2, 2014 at 05:56 pm
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avenue rd location north of Lawrence is great
samuel / April 11, 2014 at 08:57 pm
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Bayview village. Is the best. And north york center is the worst
smh / April 11, 2014 at 09:00 pm
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UM.....
Atrium at Bay has a vintages and is really not bad at all i go there once a week.
The WORST is Avenue & Eglinton selection is awful.
The best one I've been to is Avenue & Lawrence
Vanessa / April 11, 2014 at 10:03 pm
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Shops at Don Mills is one to add to the 'good' list.
DrinkUp / April 11, 2014 at 10:12 pm
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I agree with the Best list with the addition of Shops @ Don Mills. One of the worst is the Parliament & Winchester Location.....BRUTAL and always jammed
CLS / April 12, 2014 at 11:17 am
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I'm gonna give a shoutout to the LCBO at Bloor & Grenview in Etobicoke. Great selection, staff is there to lend a hand if need be but they don't hang over you and there's a Vintages section for when you need a gift/feel like being a little swanky.
Peter / April 12, 2014 at 08:17 pm
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Best - Summerhill, Mavis and Dundas ( Mississauga). Worst - Westwood Mall ( Malton )
Troughler / October 23, 2014 at 10:55 pm
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The new one in The Beyatches is not bad neither...the old one next to the Tim Hortons, was the pits.
Captain Jack replying to a comment from Troughler / October 24, 2014 at 04:40 am
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GOD DAMN YOU, IT'S THE BEACH.

*hic*
Coxwell Queen replying to a comment from Paul / October 24, 2014 at 04:40 am
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They've always owned the space. Now if only they would repave that damn parking lot.

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