Ontario Consumers Will be Able to Buy Beer, Cider, Wine and Low-Alcohol Ready-to-Drink Beverages at Convenience, Grocery and Big Box Stores
Province will ensure a stable and responsible transition to new marketplace that promotes Ontario-made products and local jobs
December 14, 2023
Today, the Ontario government announced that beginning no later than January 1, 2026, consumers will be able to buy beer, wine, cider, coolers, seltzers, and other low-alcohol ready-to-drink beverages at all participating convenience, grocery and big box stores across the province. This new, more open marketplace will introduce up to 8,500 new stores where these products can be purchased, the largest expansion of consumer choice and convenience since the end of prohibition almost 100 years ago. Spirits like vodka, gin and whisky will continue to be sold at the LCBO.
“We made a promise to the people of Ontario to deliver more choice and convenience,” said Premier Doug Ford. “Today, we’re delivering on that promise. There’s no reason why Ontario consumers shouldn’t enjoy the same convenient shopping experience as Canadians in every other province when buying some wine for their holiday party or a case of beer or seltzers on their way to the cottage.”
As a first step in the transition to a new retail marketplace, the government has informed Brewers Retail Inc. (The Beer Store) that the Master Framework Agreement (MFA), signed and extended for ten years by the previous government in 2015 and limited the number of retail stores that could be authorized to sell alcohol, will not be renewed after it expires on December 31, 2025. The Beer Store and LCBO will continue their retail operations in Ontario’s new marketplace.
“The people of Ontario will soon have more choice and convenience on where they can buy alcohol,” said Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance. “As we move towards implementing this expansion, our government will be taking a responsible, measured approach so we can ensure our transition to a new marketplace is smooth, safe and stable.”
The government’s balanced approach also includes the following initiatives:
- Competitive pricing: Ontario will introduce competitive pricing to all private retailers to promote competition and a better deal for consumers. LCBO retail stores will maintain consistent pricing across the province to help ensure consumers do not pay more based on where they live, including in rural and northern Ontario. As they do in other provinces, retailers will have the option to set promotional prices consistent with relevant regulations. Minimum pricing policies will remain in effect to preserve standards for responsible consumption.
- Pack sizes: Ontario is removing restrictions and exclusivities on pack sizes. Consumers will be able to purchase any pack size, including 12-packs, 24-packs or even 30-packs as is popular in Quebec of beer, cider and ready-to-drink alcohol beverages at convenience, grocery and big box stores, in addition to the LCBO and The Beer Store.
- Recycling program: The Beer Store has agreed to continue to run the provincewide recycling program for alcoholic beverage containers until at least 2031 as part of a transition period in the new marketplace. This program, which is well liked and convenient for consumers with hundreds of locations across the province, helps keep costs down for producers and consumers while helping to protect the environment by diverting significant amounts of waste from landfills. The government will consult with retailers and industry stakeholders on the future of recycling and deposit return to ensure this important feature is maintained beyond 2031.
- Support for local beverage alcohol producers: Ontario will provide a range of transitional and time-limited supports to Ontario-based producers to help with the transition to a more open marketplace, including:
- Extending dedicated shelf space requirements across all new retailers for craft producers to provide opportunities for small producers to compete
- Immediately enhancing the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) Wine Support Program beginning in 2024-25 for up to five years to 2028-29 to support the growth and sale of Ontario-grown VQA wines
- Extending the Wine Marketing Fund and the Small Cidery and Small Distillery Support Program for up to five years
- Supporting local economic development by directing the LCBO to promote and prioritize Ontario-made products, producers and workers by providing more and enhanced programs, promotions and strategies to help local producers grow Ontario product sales
- Establishing a wine and grape industry sector table between government and industry partners
- Introducing legislation that will, if passed, eliminate the 6.1 per cent wine basic tax at on-site winery retail stores, making Ontario’s tax regime competitive with other provinces, including British Columbia
- Social responsibility: The government is providing an additional $10 million over five years in funding to the Ministry of Health to support social responsibility and public health efforts to ensure alcohol continues to be sold and consumed safely in the expanded marketplace. Existing requirements related to staff training, minimum pricing, hours of sale and warning signs will be maintained and applied to all new retail outlets.
- Wholesale: The LCBO will be the exclusive wholesaler for all retail, bars and restaurants selling alcohol and will offer consumers an extensive array of choices, including domestic and imported products. This structure will continue to offer the benefits of the LCBO’s world-leading purchasing power and economies of scale and ensures sector stability, including maintaining an important employment footprint across Ontario and a significant revenue stream for government so that it can continue to invest in critical frontline services like health care and education. The province is proud of its LCBO workforce and will continue to support them through this transition.
- Distribution: The LCBO will continue to work with producers and retailers to distribute wine and spirits in an expanded marketplace, including retail stores, bars and restaurants. The Beer Store has agreed to maintain its primary role in the distribution of beer to retailers, bars and restaurants until at least 2031 as part of the transition period, helping to provide stability to the sector and frontline workers. The province will also permit more flexible distribution models for small producers.
In the months ahead, the government will continue to meet and consult with industry partners, local beverage alcohol producers and other stakeholders on additional areas of the future marketplace including licensing, wholesale pricing and taxes, mark-ups and fees. The province will also conduct a broader review of taxes and fees on beer, wine and alcoholic beverages with the aim of promoting a more competitive marketplace for Ontario-based producers and consumers.
- The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) will continue to manage the licensing of alcohol sales in the province in the new marketplace.
“Today is one of the best days the Ontario wine industry has had in decades. The measures announced by the Government of Ontario are the first step in allowing Ontario wineries and grape growers to grow and thrive.”
– Aaron Dobbin
President and CEO, Wine Growers Ontario
“For decades, Ontario wineries have faced disadvantages that other wine producing regions do not face in their home markets. Today’s announcement by the Ontario government recognizes what we have long said: wine regions are catalysts for economic growth. Every dollar spent on wine grown in Ontario is a dollar going back into the economic growth of Ontario, through agricultural jobs, small business growth and agri-tourism. The government’s plan will put us back on track for not only sustaining, but growing our agricultural businesses for generations to come.”
– Richard Linley
President, Ontario Craft Wineries
“The Grape Growers of Ontario extends our heartfelt appreciation to the Government of Ontario for its visionary approach to help Ontario’s grape and wine industry thrive and grow into its true potential. The decision to extend the VQA support program for five years is a game-changer. It not only provides stability for both farmers and wineries, but it will also fuel growth. The elimination of the 6.1% Winery Retail Tax will invigorate Ontario wineries and make it possible for them reinvest in their businesses and drive innovation. Together, we toast to a thriving grape and wine landscape in Ontario.”
– Debbie Zimmerman
CEO, Grape Growers of Ontario
“Today’s announcement is welcome news for Ontario’s convenience stores. Removing antiquated restrictions on the sale of beer, wine, coolers and ready-to-drink beverages will create new revenue streams for our local businesses and meet customer demands in an increasingly competitive marketplace. This is an important step, and we are committed to working with the government on the specific details on a responsible and successful transition of these new products into our stores.”
– Anne Kothawala
President & CEO, Convenience Industry Council of Canada
“Spirits Canada welcomes this important step in modernising Ontario’s outdated alcohol retail options. Today’s announcement brings Ontario closer to a level playing field for the province’s hard-working distillers.”
– Jan Westcott
President and CEO, Spirits Canada
“We applaud the announcement by the government today and welcome the decision to restore more fairness in how these products are sold. We know that competition in the marketplace will ensure that products are still priced fairly. This will mean more stores will decide to sell these products and therefore provide more choice and convenience for consumers. Clearly the government has not only been listening to what Ontarians want, but they have listened to what independent grocers and smaller businesses need.”
– Gary Sands
Senior Vice President, Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers
“We are pleased to see the government move to end the Master Framework Agreement with The Beer Store. By ending the MFA, Premier Ford is moving Ontario forward and opening up choices for consumers; more grocery stores will soon sell more alcohol options in all formats and sizes – 12-packs, 24-packs, and even larger formats.”
– Diane J. Brisebois
President & CEO, Retail Council of Canada
“The Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB) applaud the government for delivering on its promise to expand the province’s alcohol retail system, which will put consumers first and make it easier for Ontarians to find and purchase local craft beer. We are particularly pleased the government is building the system to support Ontario-made producers, for example, by maintaining dedicated shelf space for craft beer and continuing to prevent stocking fees so consumer choice determines what is on the shelves.”
– Scott Simmons
President, Ontario Craft Brewers