convenience store beer

Convenience stores call on Ontario to allow beer and wine sales in their shops

Thanks to a relaxing of the rules during lockdown, picking up a bottle of wine for takeout or delivery at Toronto restaurants and bars became a thing — and now convenience stores want a piece of the action.

At first a measure to support the troubled restaurant industry, Ontario made the sale of alcohol with food takeout and delivery a permanent law in December.

Now, the Convenience Industry Council of Canada, a not-for-profit council for convenience stores, is asking the province to allow beer, cooler and wine sales in Ontario convenience stores.

More specifically they want to focus on getting local beer and wine craft producers into stores to help provincial producers, according to a news release.

"Ontario's convenience industry is committed to helping local producers by selling 100% made-in-Ontario beer, wine and coolers from now through 2022," said Anne Kothawala, president and CEO of the Convenience Industry Council of Canada.

Although the Ford government promised to allow alcohol sales in corner stores (along with a buck-a-beer promise), the deal hit a snag back in 2019 when an unnamed source told the CBC that breaking the contract with The Beer Store, which expires in 2025, could result in more than $100 million in fines.

But Kothawala says that deal was already broken when province allowed takeout alcohol sales in restaurants.

"So basically, that agreement has already been broken," Kothawala tells blogTO. "Every change that the government has made regarding alcohol, including allowing restaurant delivery, has basically contravened the master framework agreement."

She says allowing the sales will help convenience stores recover after lockdown and get local producers into the 8,500 convivence stores across Ontario.

"We're really just asking the government to choose jobs and economic growth," she says. "And we think that this is going to give not only convenience stores, but Ontario's small brewers, distillers and wineries 8,500 new retail opportunities."

It could also help smaller, local craft brewers and wineries that don't have the economies of scale to get into the bigger stores.

"Our customers are already going to convenience stores, and it would be great if they could pick up a few of our Made-in-Ontario beverages and save themselves a trip," said Jason Lalonde, co-owner of Carp's Ridge Rock Brewing Company.

Kothawala hopes the government will listen.

"Ontarians want it. We are prepared to offer it. It's time to give residents in the province what they want while helping the Ford government keep a promise they made to voters," Kothawala said.

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