Ontario Expanding Sale of Alcoholic Beverages Starting this Summer

Phased rollout will allow beer, cider, wine and ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages to be sold in convenience, grocery and big-box stores

The Ontario government is expanding the province’s alcohol beverage marketplace to increase choice and convenience for shoppers earlier than planned. Starting in August, consumers will be able to purchase new products like coolers and other ready-to-drink beverages alongside more pack sizes at grocery stores that currently sell wine or beer, followed by new retailers being able to sell an increased selection of local, domestic and international alcohol products in a safe and responsible manner. By the end of October 2024, every convenience, grocery and big-box store in Ontario will be able to sell beer, cider, wine and ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages if they choose to do so.

“We are delivering on our commitment to give consumers in Ontario the choice and convenience every other Canadian enjoys and we’re doing so even sooner than we had originally promised,” said Premier Doug Ford. “In the coming weeks and months, people in Ontario, like many Canadians across the country, will have the option to responsibly and conveniently purchase a case of beer or a bottle of wine on their way up to the cottage or to a summer barbecue, all while having even more opportunity to support local Ontario breweries and wineries.”

The phased expansion and rollout will begin later this summer and will include the following milestones:

  • On August 1, 2024, the up to 450 grocery stores that are currently licensed to sell beer, cider or wine will also be able to sell ready-to-drink beverages. These grocery stores will also be able to start offering consumers large-pack sizes like the 30-pack that is popular in Quebec.
  • After September 5, 2024, all eligible convenience stores will be able to sell beer, cider, wine and ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages.
  • After October 31, 2024, all eligible grocery and big-box stores will be able to sell beer, cider, wine and ready-to-drink beverages, including in large pack sizes.

Through this phased rollout, the government is creating the conditions for a more open and convenient alcohol beverage marketplace. Individual retailers and businesses will make their own decisions about how they participate and when.

“Our responsible and balanced approach treats Ontario consumers like adults by giving them more choice and convenience, while also supporting Ontario retailers, domestic producers and workers in the alcohol industry,” said Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy. “As we launch this new marketplace, we will continue to meet, consult and work closely with industry partners, local beverage alcohol producers and other stakeholders.”

As part of its agreement with The Beer Store, the Ontario government is providing The Beer Store with up to $225 million to make the necessary investments over the next 19 months to support a stable transition to a more open and convenient marketplace, including funding to protect jobs across the province and to keep The Beer Store locations open for the continued availability of recycling and bottle return.

The government has posted the regulations related to eligibility and license structure, along with the terms of who can sell alcohol, the rules for selling alcohol, including the social responsibility standards and the licensing framework, which will be on a first come, first served basis. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) oversees the enforcement of the Liquor Licence and Control Act, 2019, and determines consequence for retailers who breach these rules, up to and including the loss of their licence to sell alcohol. If a retailer’s licence is revoked or an application is denied, they cannot reapply for two years. The AGCO will be taking strong measures with respect to social responsibility infractions as part of its continued role in the new marketplace.

“It is great news that craft brewers will be able to sell their fantastic products in more retail stores starting this year. We have been relentless in advocating for a new retail system that puts consumers first and makes it easier to find local beer. Today’s announcement is a big step in that direction. We also applaud the government’s commitment to complete its review of craft beer taxes by the end of 2024, and to eliminate the LCBO cost of service fees, as these two changes are critical to the success of the new system. The savings will help ensure that local craft breweries can invest, grow, and succeed in existing and expanded retail channels.”

Scott Simmons President of the Ontario Craft Brewers

As announced in December 2023, the government is providing an additional $10 million over five years 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. As was also previously announced in December, the government is supporting Ontario alcohol beverage producers with a range of transitional and time-limited supports as they adapt to this new marketplace.

Over time, this new, more open marketplace will introduce up to 8,500 new stores where consumers can purchase these products, the largest expansion of consumer choice and convenience since the end of prohibition almost 100 years ago.

The Beer Store and LCBO will continue to play a significant role in the future marketplace, with The Beer Store continuing to be active in distribution, recycling and as a retailer. The Beer Store will continue to run the effective and efficient provincewide recycling program for alcoholic beverage containers until at least 2031, which helps keep costs down for producers and consumers while helping to protect the environment by diverting significant amounts of waste from landfills. The LCBO will remain a public asset and will continue to operate as a wholesaler and a retailer. A full complement of beverages like vodka, gin and whisky will continue to be sold exclusively through the LCBO network. As part of this expansion, consumers will also benefit from competitive retail pricing across all new points of sale and The Beer Store.

Quick Facts

  • Ontario halted the estimated 4.6 per cent increase to the beer basic tax and LCBO mark-up rates that was scheduled for March 1, 2024. This increase would have resulted from rates being indexed to inflation, which the government has consistently stopped over the last six years, resulting in approximately $200 million in relief. This latest freeze will be in place for two years, until March 1, 2026.
  • The government has been working closely with the LCBO, AGCO, The Beer Store and other retailers as it prepares to launch this new marketplace. 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. The government will also conduct a broader review of taxes and fees on beer, wine and alcoholic beverages with the aim of promoting a fairer and more competitive marketplace for Ontario-based products and consumers. The government expects this review to be completed before the end of the year.
  • Ontario has reached an agreement with The Beer Store to help create the conditions to increase choice and convenience for consumers starting in summer 2024. As part of this agreement, 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.
  • An interim wholesale discount of 10 per cent from the LCBO basic retail price for retailers will apply until 2026. A post-2026 wholesaler price that is consistent for all retailers will be determined by a formula that adds taxes, mark-ups and fees to a supplier’s set price. The government will continue to consult with stakeholders on the new model.
  • The government has demonstrated ongoing support for the wine sector representing over $330 million, including:
  • Elimination of the 6.1 per cent wine basic tax at on-site winery retail stores
  • Enhancing the VQA Wine Support Programs for up to five years
  • Extending the Wine Marketing Fund for up to five years