Doug Ford is still working on getting beer and wine into convenience stores across Ontario, with the premier confirming that he is still moving forward with plans to expand alcohol sales to more retailers.
Though it may be further down his list than during his buck-a-beer campaign days.
Ford said in May the province would be working with the Beer Store throughout the changes, but many are now wondering how the chain — Ontario’s largest beer vendor and the only store permitted to sell it by the case — will fare when tons of competition is allowed into a market it has long dominated.
Some insider sources have cast new doubts about the Beer Store’s future this week, telling the Star that Ford’s leadership does not intend to renew the Master Framework Agreement that places strict limits on the sale of beer in outlets other than the retailer.
The Beer Store is largely owned by major breweries Molson, Labatt and Sleeman, along with a handful of local brewers who also have a tiny stake in the business.
The agreement as it stands now expires in 2025, and this year is the cutoff for when the government must notify affected parties if it is not being renewed. And experts are noting that the Beer Store has been downsizing and selling off multiple properties in recent years, cutting four per cent of its footprint.
While talk of the vendor potentially closing is nothing more than a rumour at this point, many citizens appear to feel strongly about the subject, with the vast majority celebrating the end of what they see as one of many problematic monopolies or oligopolies in the province.
Some are saying the end of the Beer Store’s reign has been a long time coming, and that it would be in consumers’ best interests to have more sellers to choose from.
Outdated, useless business model completely removed from its original function and purpose. Free up the beer market so I can start buying from Costco.
— RichardPayneFromBeeton \ (@FromPayne) November 14, 2023
Among responses like “good riddance,” “great news!” and “finally” are hopes that this could mean greater convenience, more selection and, most importantly, lower prices for shoppers amid more competition.
Others are less confident and have a list of concerns, primarily about the end of the Beer Store’s deposit-return program to handle the glut of recycling that municipal systems may not be prepared to handle.
how about your recycling bin where you put everything like that already?
— Crypto Dave (@crypto_dave5) November 14, 2023
Then there are the thousands of jobs that will be lost if the Beer Store goes under, and the fears that beer prices could actually end up going up.
Some also believe that only “the popular beers” will end up dominating shelves, though, under the existing model, any brand that isn’t under the umbrella of Labatt (Anheuser-Busch), Molson Coors or Sleeman (Sapporo) has to pay a fee to sell their product in the Beer Store.
The distribution is a non for profit system. Once it becomes for profit the prices will go up
— Hoosie Volodymyr Husarewych (@HoosieHD) November 14, 2023
As Ford said in the spring when reiterating his intention to open the market up, “The Beer Store is owned by three massive beer companies — foreign, may I add, foreign beer companies… I don’t think that monopoly’s right.”
Neither the Premier’s Office nor the Beer Store were able to provide comment on the potential end to the Master Framework Agreement in time for publication.