Monopoly: The name of the game for The Beer Store
Credit: PAULMCKINNON / THINKSTOCK
Maybe if The Beer Store would extend its operation hours, people wouldn't complain as much.
The archaic rules surrounding alcohol sales in Ontario have frustrated consumers for over 30 years. While the debate has been resurrected of late — in February, Premier Kathleen Wynne stated that beer would still not be sold in convenience stores — Ontarian's frustrations can be traced back to 1985.
Wynne's refusal to budge on the issue borders on the absurd in light of the fact that grocery stores are allowed to sell wine and, recently, various alcoholic coolers. In addition to that, the LCBO — as stated on its website — has licensed hundreds of convenience stores and local businesses “in rural communities where residents do not have reasonable access to an LCBO store.”
A crucial distinction must be made between The Beer Store and the LCBO. The latter is owned and operated by the government of Ontario, while the former is owned and operated predominately by foreign interests. That means the profits from the LCBO go to the government of Ontario, while the profits from The Beer Store immediately leave the country. To further muddy the waters, The Beer Store — which operates under the oversight of the LCBO — brokered a deal with the LCBO that prevents the sale of 24-packs outside of The Beer Store. Even 12-packs at the LCBO are more expensive than at The Beer Store.
The Beer Store and its owners will fight any changes in legislation that they believe could threaten their monopoly of beer sales in Ontario. Despite repeated claims by the ownership that The Beer Store merely breaks even at the end of the day, it seems bizarre and highly suspect that it would want to run a business that fails to turn a profit. The likelihood is that its profit margin is so minimal that any dilution of its monopoly would be catastrophic to its business model.
Beer is already being sold in convenience stores and alcohol is available at a wide variety of privately owned stores under the oversight of the LCBO. The major stipulation is that beer and liquor are sold exclusively at The Beer Store and the LCBO in populated areas. If smaller retailers were licensed to sell beer in cities like London, The Beer Store would be out of business in a matter of a year. Besides the stores' terrible hours, complaints are rampant from consumers forced to wait behind people returning shopping carts full of cans in order to afford a couple tall cans of Old Milwaukee.
The public has spoken, when will the premier start listening?