A pre-Christmas article/opinion piece in the Toronto Star speaks to beer distribution in this province. The current Liberal government lead by Katherine Wynne seems to be content with the status quo, but Star author Martin Cohn certainly does not.
Mr. Cohn does expose something not all Ontarians know: The Beer Store is not owned nor operated by the provincial government. Rather, it is controlled by an amalgam of international brewing companies. This fact, he argues, should be impetus for busting up the structure and allowing beer to be sold from competing outlets such as major retailers, grocery stores and convenience stores.
Mr. Cohn suggests this would widen the market for local Ontario brewers, lower prices in general, keep profits inside the province, and provide convenience to the consumer. He also seems quite discontent with the aesthetics and consumer-experience of the average beer retail outlet.
To retort: if grocery and convenience stores were to sell beer, they would sell the big brands, as they do with cereal, bread, pickles, and everything else. Craft brewers would likely be no better off in looking to sell their wares; consumers having no easier path to buy them. And with many major retailers being foreign-owned, this would not domesticate the profits, as Mr. Cohn implies.
Regarding price, where private systems have been introduced to replace public systems, beer prices are substantially higher inside many ‘convenient’ locations.
Altogether, this ‘convenience’ comes at a great cost: other provincial governments maintain substantial tax revenue on privately-sold beer, while grossly widening access to alcohol. As access to alcohol rises, so do the associated harms: abuse, health impacts, violence and crime.
Lastly, I’ll say this about The Beer Store. I personally don’t care what it looks like inside. I am there to reclaim a deposit, gather the beer and leave. In today’s consumer-crazy, time-sapped world, I would argue it’s a relief to be free of any need to browse.