A self-serve beer outlet in Liberty Village that will include tasting events and features an exposed-brick interior, is being described by The Beer Store as a new “urban experience” aimed at the “hard-core city-dweller” who does not want to carry a “2-4” home on the back of a bicycle.
The Beer Boutique that opened this week has another unique feature – it will not be accepting beer, wine or liquor empties from customers seeking a return on their container deposits.
People with shopping carts full of empties – a fixture at beer stores across downtown Toronto – will not be welcome at the Liberty Village location. Instead, they will have to take the empties to traditional outlets, where beer is delivered to customers along rollers from a back storage room.
The Beer Store, which is the trade name for the privately owned Brewers Retail, entered into an agreement with the province in 2007 to handle all wine and liquor bottle returns, in addition to its pre-existing beer bottle program. In its most recent annual report, The Beer Store stated “we not only talk the talk, we walk the walk,” on environmental issues, noting that it has a nearly 100 per cent return rate on refillable beer bottles.
The policy at the Liberty Village outlet is specific to that location, said Jeff Newton, a spokesman for The Beer Store. “This is a very unique store. It is an upscale, premium shopping experience,” he said. The 2,700-square-foot location has space and design features “that do not lend it to container returns,” Mr. Newton said.
The Ontario Deposit Return Program makes it mandatory even for agency stores in small communities with a licence to sell beer, to accept empties. The agreement between the province and The Beer Store requires the retailer only to provide the same return service for wine and liquor as it does for beer.
While the Beer Boutique is trying to be more up-market, Mr. Newton dismissed any suggestion the no-empties policy is to keep “bottle scavengers” away from the Liberty Village location. “Absolutely not. That was not a consideration in doing it. The majority of containers are brought back by people who purchased them. Bottle scavengers are a small percentage,” he said.
The Liberty Village store is a pilot project. Any future Beer Boutiques might accept empties, depending on its physical space, Mr. Newton said.
A Toronto-based environmental group said it hopes the policy remains unique to the Liberty Village location. “The Ontario Deposit Return Program has been very effective,” said Keith Brooks, a program manager at Environmental Defence Canada, who recently authored a report calling for the wine industry to produce reusable bottles. “We are wary of anything that could undermine its effectiveness.”
Provincial responsibility for overseeing the bottle return agreement “rests with the Ministry of Finance,” a spokesman for the Environment Minister said. The Liberty Village policy should not affect overall bottle returns, said Scott Blodgett, a spokesman for the Finance Ministry. “There is a vast network of [beer]stores across the province. There is still an environmental and financial incentive to take bottles back, “ he said.
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