Why it’s Time to End Operations of The Beer Store in Ontario [Op-Ed]


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The Ford government is once again considering the end of Ontario’s Beer Stores. According to the Toronto Star, there is no intention to renew the 10-year Master Framework Agreement, which imposes stringent restrictions on the sale of beer in Ontario venues other than the designated retailer. The Ford government has less than a month to commit to a new contract or not. The current agreement ends in 2025. However, for Ontario, it’s high time to move on from this archaic business model that has been around for far too long.

Founded in 1927, The Beer Stores in Ontario are thought to be the sole foreign-owned oligopoly controlling the retail sale of beer in Canada’s food industry. It is quite peculiar when you think about it. They operate a total of 420 stores throughout the province, have 8 distribution centres, and employ almost 7,000 people.

Image: The Beer Store

This chain is primarily owned by Molson, Labatt, and Sleeman, with a few smaller breweries owning stakes in the chain, but very few. In fact, many Ontarians believe that Beer Stores are government-owned because that’s the impression they often get when visiting one of them. Going to a Beer Store in Ontario feels as mundane as buying bread in Europe during the Great War – devoid of personality, lacking any excitement, and downright boring. It’s hard to imagine why Ontarians are still accepting a sub-par experience when buying beer. Other provinces would never put up with it. The beer world has indeed changed, but apparently, not in Ontario.

The Beer Store chain doesn’t have to be eliminated. For one, in the current, flawed system, only the Beer Store can sell some discounted cases. Eliminating this restriction would have a significant impact on competition and create a more level playing field. It would give more options to consumers. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to redecorate stores and make them more inviting. Right now, some of them just look like a prettied-up warehouse, and some people just take your order. In retailing, the Beer Store is far from being a benchmark.

Ontarians have also enjoyed the luxury of returning bottles to the same place of purchase. Perhaps, beyond 2025, Beer Stores could also play a role by continuing to accept beer bottles while the province figures out a different method to preserve the necessary green logistics to support a recycling strategy. Again, other provinces have figured out different systems. Surely, Ontario can come up with a new plan.

Changes are long overdue in the need to recognize and support the countless small, local microbrewers who struggle to secure any shelf space at the Beer Store due to the dominance of a retail distribution oligopoly. Many microbreweries need support and attention so market access in their own province is not an issue. It’s a straightforward decision that would benefit both consumers and those who foster job creation.

Image: The Beer Store

At the center of it all lies a unique but ambiguous fact. The evolving and sometimes awkward relationship Ontarians have had with alcohol over the years has indeed been truly intriguing. The Beer Store stands as an emblem of that distinctive relationship. Ontario has changed over the years, and so should the province’s beer distribution policies.

But in the end, this outdated model has become obsolete and serves as a hindrance to the free and competitive beer market. For consumers in Ontario, it’s time to modernize and open the beer market in Ontario. Free the beer!

Sylvain Charlebois
Sylvain Charlebois
Dr. Sylvain Charlebois is Senior Director of the Agri-Foods Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax. Also at Dalhousie, he is Professor in food distribution and policy in the Faculty of Agriculture. His current research interest lies in the broad area of food distribution, security and safety, and has published four books and many peer-reviewed journal articles in several publications. His research has been featured in a number of newspapers, including The Economist, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, the Globe & Mail, the National Post and the Toronto Star.


  1. Disagree. For sure there will be less income for the govt, lower wages for the remaining workers, and increased booze sales. All losses! No gains!

  2. What a great article. I went in out local Beer Store on the weekend. It was rough, dirty and a bit sad. The people there working were lovely. I had NO idea it was not government owned. Where I was brought up, in Wales, you can buy beer, wine and spirits everywhere.

  3. Does anyone remember the old LCBO ?
    Fill out a form, you are NOT allowed to see or touch the bottle till it’s paid for.
    Enough with brewers retail !!

  4. An interesting article to say the least.

    Should also mention that pre tax Ontario’s beer is cheaper than Quebec’s. Ontario pays a whopping 61% per case to the same government that’s trying to shut down the beer store.

    They also want to shut down the empty return thereby creating more waste in our landfills.

    The beer store is owned in parts by each brewery that supplies TBS and by putting the government in between them (the brewers) and anyone trying to sell it (corner stores) do you really think that will help lower costs?

    • I agree, all the provinces I’ve been to outside of Ontario, beer has been much more expensive.

      Honestly all the stores in my area seem nice enough, don’t actually know what more you need when just buying some beer honestly.

      I’d rather keep the stores, cheap prices, and good wages for workers there.

  5. The worst place to have to go to by beer. All beer stores are not the same half the time they don’t have what you are looking for and have to drive to another store. The prices can change any time like gas and way to high compared to other provinces. They are like the grocery stores just scamming the Ontario people to make Billions off of hard working people. Covid is over get back to normality.

  6. When was the last time you went to a convenience store to save money. This writer doesn’t even live in Ontario. Doug Fords is obsessed with a buck a beer. Why? How about a buck for water.

  7. The idea seems sane enough from a practical perspective. Given the track record of the Ford Cons, can’t help but wonder how success would be measured. I’m thinking of the recent wins on license plates, green belts and LTC. How much of our golden goose will be squandered? To what end? Nope, I’m thinking this will get all screwed too. Leave it be.

  8. No excitement for you buying beer? Do convenience stores warm your loins? Nothing like an exciting trip to Wall-Mart where you will pay more and wait longer. Recycled arguments from another conservative shill. The Beer Store has helped keep the actual price of beer cheaper than any other province so careful what you shill for.
    (Although this shill doesnt live in Ontario)

  9. Beer stores have provided consistent great service for generations.I applaud the recycling of everything they produce.The return of beer bottles , beer cans, beer caps, cardboard as well as liquor bottles that they do not even sell. Try to name anyone that does this better.
    It appears Mr.Ford is hell bent on screwing up things that aren not broken.ie.greenbelt, useless peeling licence plates ect. I would like him to focus on real tangible needs in Ontario…start with helping the homeless.

  10. Let’s not forget that in Ontario in order to sell beer and alcohol, a business, brewery, beer store or winery needs to obtain a liquor license from the AGCO. So this means that the government still has control over who sells. And remember last year when they wanted to impose extra taxes on spirits? They held off on that idea at the time because of pushback but messing with the current system will increase prices and I’m sure they will impose some sort of tax later on as well!


    Type of Application

    (one time)

    (two year term)


    (four year term)

    Renewal – Beer and cider grocery store licence (Category A) and Beer and wine grocery store licence (Category A)




    Renewal – Beer and cider grocery store licence (Category B) and Beer and wine grocery store licence (Category B)



    $4,000 *info from gov’t site

  11. ending the bottle & can return in Ontario, i take cans back to Quebec & get double return deposit on larger cans marked 20 cent deposit. I agree leave the Ontario sysem alone

  12. In would be ok with it, if TBS remained a recycle center and or a main distribution center for pubs and large orders. If you can lower prices in convenience stores, so craft brewers can get access that would be a success!

    leave our Beer stores alone,it ain’t broken
    I live in Sudbury ,the staff at lorne st Beer
    Store and other locations,& delivery beer
    Trucks Staff,all good and great people,who
    Working for the Beer Store,Again do not
    Messy with something that is not broken
    Just few redecorating things to be done
    Tad new paint ,freshness is all is needed,Ok
    Renew ,Beer Store contract for another
    20 years ok ,its good investment for all

  14. Convenience is the what the public needs in today’s world. Be done with The Beerstore. I have to drive 20 minutes to get to it. Walmart and Metro are closer., and I have a handful of convenience stores right around me. It’s time to say goodbye. Recycling can be done at big grocery stores., as it is in the US.

  15. Convenience is the what the public needs in today’s world. Be done with The Beerstore. I have to drive 20 minutes to get to it. Walmart and Metro are closer., and I have a handful of convenience stores right around me. It’s time to say goodbye. Recycling can be done at big grocery stores., as it is in the US.


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