ONTARIO-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.
“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.” said Aaron Dobbin, President and CEO, Wine Growers Ontario.
Officials say this 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 government says 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.”
Minimum pricing policies will remain in effect to preserve standards for responsible consumption but 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.
“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.” stated Gary Sands, Senior Vice President, Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers.
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. The government says it will consult with retailers and industry stakeholders on the future of recycling and deposit return to ensure this important feature is maintained beyond 2031.
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.
An additional $10 million over five years in funding will be provided 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.
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. 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.
The province says it 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.