Liquid Alternatives in the Face of Looming LCBO Strike
Insofar as I often occupy the knife's edge between wine lover and highly functioning alcoholic, news of a possible LCBO strike had my stomach all tied up in knots. And while the latest news is that negotiations will continue past yesterday's midnight strike deadline, no doubt similar - if less dramatic - fears were what led countless numbers of people to clear out liquor store shelves in anticipation of a strike.
At the Dupont and Spadina location, where I made my last minute run, the competition between bar and restaurant owners looking for some insurance stock and individuals hoping to avoid the complete depletion of their liquor cabinets was fierce. But just as my panic that my own provisions would last only a paltry few days brought on what I was convinced were pre-withdrawal shivers, I had a moment of clarity.
There's always The Beer Store. Despite my anxiety that negotiations would cease at midnight, I somehow recalled a Toronto Star article published last summer that sought to dispel the then fairly widespread myth that The Beer Store was run by the provincial government. While not usually a fan of Brewer's Retail Inc.'s monopoly of the Ontario beer market, hypocrisy was the furthest thing from my mind as I reminded myself that they would remain unaffected by the LCBO strike, if and when it took place.
But in spite of the fact that this realization quelled my initial fears, my preference for wine got me thinking of other options that might be available in the event of a strike. Surely, I told myself, you've found other ways to acquire wine over your career of drinking. Well, that was all it took. All of a sudden a flood of alternatives to the LCBO rushed into my mind. Here's a list of a few options I've come up with, most of which are pretty darn good even if - please, please, please! - the strike never becomes a reality.
The Wine Rack, Vineyard Estates, and Kittling Ridge Estates, Various Locations
Although not quite the same, I usually lump these three stores together because each one offers solely Canadian (and mostly Ontario) offerings. The main difference, however, is that only Kittling Ridge offers solely its own brand. The Wine Rack features brands like Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillin, while at Vineyard Estates I've found Peller Estates and Hillebrand amongst others. Most of these outlets are located within grocery stores.
Having bought a few inexpensive cases from Wine Online in the past, I'd happily return as a customer in the event of a prolonged strike. The international selection of this exclusively online retailer is often exciting and always well-sourced. When I haven't wanted or been able to afford a whole case, I've group-purchased with friends. But because agents in Ontario aren't allowed to warehouse their own imported wine, and because the strike will also affect staffing at the LCBO's Specialty Services department (consignment warehouse), buying at Wine Online may be restricted to wine available from Ontario wineries during the strike. Shipping to my door has always been uber fast and cheap (often free when purchasing two or more cases).
I have to admit that there are times when I'm unsatisfied with the options available at the previously mentioned local Ontario wine stores. Although I've yet to use their service, WinerytoHome has been recommended by more than a few of my wine-buff friends. Stocking wines from over 40 Canadian wineries, they seem to be the place to turn for VQA wines. Plus, in the event of a strike at the LCBO, they're offering free shipping on certain minimum orders. Again, any products that are stocked at the LCBO's consignment warehouse may not be available for purchase during the strike.
Niagara and/or Prince Edward County
I make a point of heading to local Ontario wineries at least a few times a year. Not only are the locales beautiful, but there's something about tasting wine in its very terroir (place of growth) that just feels (and tastes) right. I know it's not Tuscany or Chateauneuf-du-Pape, but I still love Ontario's wine county.
Despite the wine-centric nature of this list, I think Duty Free is one of the only options for acquiring spirits in the event of a strike. Although I might find this a touch hard to justify, that little calculator in my brain is already trying to figure out if the savings on the booze might cancel out the gas-costs. Now that I think about it, I might even do this as part of my trip to some Niagara wineries!
Some tiny liquor stores that are usually attached to rural grocery stores way outside of the city (you'll have to drive pretty far to find one) are independently operated and may stay open (and will likely be depleted of stock rather quickly in the event of a strike).
The Beer Hunter
Although not a place to acquire alcohol per se, I've often used this online service to find the best places to do so when closing times are near. If the strike does happen, this is a great place to locate wine and independent brewers unaffected by it. In the event that a deal is worked out, I plan on continuing to use this map-based site to locate those beer and wine retailers that are open late into the evening.
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