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Your take: Ontario needs a better way to sell beer

The Beer Store.

Tibor Kolley/Tibor Kolley/The Globe and Mail

Ontario drinkers would like to brew up some changes to how the province sells beer, if Globe readers are any indication.

As columnist Barrie McKenna wrote in Monday's newspaper, the issue of Ontario's beer regime was brought up again recently by a small brewery near Ottawa. A decision from the Alcohol and Gaming Commision of Ontario nearly ended a home delivery program from Beau's All Natural Brewing Co. by almost forcing them to buy their beer from provincially owned outlets or the Beer Store.

Ontario's liquor laws limit beer sales to Liquor Control Board of Ontario stores or Beer Store locations, which are owned by three foreign multinationals (Labatt, Molson Coors and Sleeman). Other provinces, such as Quebec and Alberta, allow beer to be sold more widely by private companies.

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Since this system affects all Ontarians who want to crack open a bottle, we asked you: If you live in Ontario, do you think the Beer Store needs to be fixed? And if you live in another province, what can Ontario learn from you?

The story was, not surprisingly, one of the most-read and most-commented on our site Monday morning. On our poll, 84 per cent of readers say the current model doesn't serve customers well. (The rest were split between liking it and not caring.)

Many readers said their beef with the Beer Store was selection, and that the LCBO – owned by the province of Ontario – was the better source.

"As an occasional visitor to Ontario, it took me a while to figure out that the good beer (small microbrews and craft) are actually sold in the LCBO stores," reader "empty bottles" wrote.

"The Beer Store doesn't support the cultural significance of beer. Provides a disservice to local brewers and good beer," said Brian Molerio on Twitter.

Reader Torop said he wasn't happy with the way the Beer Store sold local beers. "I want to buy local beers but the big beer companies pay for product placement in refrigerators and shelf space so local beers are put at a disadvantage."

Reader LizakaDave said that Ontario's liquor sale policies weren't good for his small business.

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"I am a small business owner and according to rules set by the Beer Store I am not allowed to purchase stock for my restaurant from the LCBO if the product is sold at The Beer Store," he wrote. "Nor can I buy most products in packages of less than 24 cans or bottles. We stock over 50 varieties of beer and it requires a huge cash outlay, and an awful lot of storage space to purchase in those quantities."

There were some readers who stood up for the Beer Store. "I like them just fine the way they are. If beer was sold in grocery stores, you'd have to wait in line with everyone doing their regular shopping." said Doug Roberts on Facebook. "

"Huh," said Mark Bovey on Facebook. "Good locations. Good hours. Great product selection for a mainstream retail organization. Almost never a shortage. What more do we want?"

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About the Author
Assistant editor, Ottawa

Chris Hannay is assistant editor in The Globe's Ottawa bureau and author of the daily Politics newsletter. Previously, he was The Globe and Mail's digital politics editor, community editor for news and sports (working with social media and digital engagement) and a homepage editor. More

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