Doug Ford

Here is when beer and wine will finally be sold in Ontario corner stores

By the end of October, every convenience store, grocery store, and big-box store in Ontario will be able to sell beer, cider, wine, and ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages if they choose to do so.

The announcement was made on Friday morning as part of the Ontario government’s commitment to expanding the province’s alcohol beverage marketplace to increase choice and convenience for shoppers.

“We are delivering on our commitment to give consumers in Ontario the choice and convenience every other Canadian enjoys and we’re doing so even sooner than we had originally promised,” Premier Doug Ford said when making the announcement at an Etobicoke convenience store on Friday. “In the coming weeks and months, people in Ontario, like many Canadians across the country, will have the option to responsibly and conveniently purchase a case of beer or a bottle of wine on their way up to the cottage or to a summer barbecue, all while having even more opportunity to support local Ontario breweries and wineries.”

When the phased expansion was first announced in December, Ford said it might take until 2026 to implement due to agreements that the province has with the beer and wine industry.

However, the provincial government announced today that they are providing The Beer Store with up to $225 million to make the necessary investments over the next 19 months to support a stable transition to a “more open and convenient marketplace”, including funding to protect jobs across the province and to keep The Beer Store locations open for recycling and bottle returns. Online reaction to the $225 million payout isn’t great:

The expansion will start this August and include the following:

  • On August 1, 2024, grocery stores that are currently licensed to sell beer, cider, or wine (about 450 of them) will be able to sell ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages. These grocery stores will also be able to start offering consumers large-pack sizes (like the 30-pack that is popular in Quebec).
  • After September 5, 2024, all eligible convenience stores in Ontario will be able to sell beer, cider, wine, and ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages.
  • After October 31, 2024, all eligible grocery and big-box stores (e.g., Walmart, etc.) will be able to sell beer, cider, wine, and ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages, including in large pack sizes.

Individual retailers and businesses will make their own decisions about how they participate and when.

“Our responsible and balanced approach treats Ontario consumers like adults by giving them more choice and convenience, while also supporting Ontario retailers, domestic producers and workers in the alcohol industry,” Ontario’s Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy said on Friday. “As we launch this new marketplace, we will continue to meet, consult and work closely with industry partners, local beverage alcohol producers and other stakeholders.”

Currently, there are about 2,935 outlets (including beer stores, supermarkets, wine retailers, craft brewery shops, etc.)  licensed to sell alcohol in the province.  When Ford’s phased expansion is completed, there will be about an additional 8,500 alcohol retailers in the province.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO