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Ontario to start selling beer in grocery stores

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By Zahraa Alumairy

The government of Ontario announced on Sept. 23 that they plan to allow some grocery stores in the province to sell beer by the end of this year.

In the first round of authorizations, to be announced this December, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario will award 48 large grocers and 12 small grocers authorizations to sell beer, for a total of 60 grocers. Twenty five of these grocers will be located in the Greater Toronto Area.

“The turn up’s going to be real,” said third-year student Salman Ali, but added that easier access to alcohol might become a problem. The same concern is shared by Adam Hussein, a second-year student.

At a news conference on the day of the announcement, Premier Kathleen Wynne detailed this process as a part of “modernizing our province’s beer retailing system to give people better access to the products they enjoy — and doing it in a prudent and socially responsible way.”

Currently, beer in Ontario is sold exclusively at The Beer Store and the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) stores.

For this change, the government has made a series of agreements with the company, said Wynne, helping to “level the playing field” for Ontario-based brewers to encourage economic growth throughout the province. The Beer Store retails approximately 80 per cent of the beer in Ontario.

Third-year student Jalal Hossain sees this as a progressive move for the province. “I think it’s more convenient. We’re moving towards a European shift,” he said. “They’ve had these stores in Europe where they sell beer, and people are much happier than we are …I think we’d be adopting this kind of behaviour.”

All grocers who plan on selling beer will be making agreements with the LCBO, the sole supplier of beer in all private retail channels. As such, they must commit to meeting strict requirements in retailing alcohol safely, ensuring that:

  • Beer is not sold to persons under 19 or intoxicated
  • Sales adhere to standard hours of sale
  • Beer is only available in designated sections of stores
  • All staff are trained to ensure the Ontario standards are met.

“To be honest, I don’t think it’ll make much of a difference,” said Sam Ali, third-year student, speaking to the question of whether or not the change will mean easier access to alcohol for underage persons. “Whoever wants to get beer they know where to go, right? And if they have someone that can get it for them they can get it from wherever.”

Grocery stores interested in bidding to carry beer have until November 6 to submit their applications to the LCBO. The plan will be to have 450 stores carrying beer, 150 by May 2017, distributed province-wide to ensure fair competition.

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