Dave Bryans, CEO of the Ontario Convenience Stores Association speaking at a press conference alongside representatives from four Ontario convenience retail chains. – Photo by Joyita Sengupta
The Ontario Convenience Stores (OCSA) Association presented a proposal for Ontario wine and craft beer to be sold at corner stores in the province despite the provincial government’s resistance to the idea.
Dave Bryans, CEO of the OCSA appeared at a press conference at Queen’s Park Tuesday, Oct. 29 with representatives from four convenience store chains: Mac’s convenience, 7-Eleven, Rabba Fine Foods and Hasty Market.
Each representative signed a pledge at the press conference promising 30 per cent of their retail space to Ontario wine and beer if their bid is approved.
“Ontarians have been clear that they want Ontario to modernize the alcohol retailing system in this province,” said Bryans. “We have seen Ontario wineries and craft brewers talk about how difficult it can be to get retail space for their products. Even in the fantastic LCBO outlets, they are still looking for space.”
Premier Kathleen Wynne and Ontario finance minister Charles Sousa spoke to reporters on Monday, Oct. 28 about the OCSA’s recent bids to bring beer and wine into Ontario convenience stores. They both rejected the proposal.
“At this point though, what I think we’ve seen and have envisioned for the immediate term is to continue with that we have,” said Sousa.
Wynne added, “I’m not suggesting that there doesn’t need to be any changes in that arrangement but the question that was originally asked was about corner stores and our position is that we’re expanding the networks through the LCBO, creating that availability.”
In response to the province’s aversion to selling beer and wine in convenience stores, Bryans says he hopes they change their minds.
“People come in our stores everyday, people have signed petitions and pledges, and people want more access to cold beer on a hot summer day,” said Bryans.
The Progressive Conservatives have favoured adding convenience stores to the current beer and wine distribution system but the NDP have sided with the Liberals on this issue.
Andrea Chiodo is the creative director of craft brewery, Flying Monkeys, based in Barrie, Ont. She says they are satisfied with LCBO’s increased commitment to providing local craft beer.
“LCBO has really come to the forefront in the past few years for craft beer. They have shelf space and they have their own refrigerator,” said Chiodo.
Chiodo said the convenience store model may not be viable for micro-breweries in Ontario right now. Flying Monkeys currently drops off their product at one LCBO distribution centre and from there it is shipped out to stores across the province. She says getting the beer out to convenience stores will be more complicated and less cost-effective.
“There’s going to be increased costs for breweries. Each convenience store will have different distribution points and we’ll need more drivers and trucks,” Chiodo said. “It doesn’t necessarily guarantee more sales.”
Chiodo said Flying Monkeys is part of Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB), a board made up of 31 Ontario micro-brewers committed to the promotion and production of quality craft beer. She says she had not heard about the OCSA’s call for beer and wine in convenience stores directly or through OCB. She says the news coverage earlier this week was the first time anyone at Flying Monkeys had heard about it.
When asked about the lack of communication between OCSA and OCB at the press conference, Bryans said there is more to come.
“They’re also not sure of where to go because no one has made an offer to them. So they’re meeting and they’re trying to decide where they want to go but once they understand our offer today and our commitment , because no one has made a commitment to them, not the LCBO, not the beer store, not this kind of commitment, I think you’ll see a different tone,” said Bryans.
The province does, however, plan to expand LCBO locations into more grocery stores and there are currently 219 LCBO locations within convenience stores in communities that cannot support a liquor store on its own.