Jonsson’s Your Independent grocer in the Kemptville Mall is one of 67 stores in Ontario to be given a licence to sell beer and wine, a real coup for a local store. Store owner, Steve Jonsson, and his staff put in an overnight reorganisation of the store, starting at 9pm the night before, in order to have the new stock in place when they opened for business last weekend.

Steve says that the initial stock will feature Ontario wines, and half of the shelf space for beer will be dedicated to craft brews, with the focus being on Ontario breweries. One condition of the licence is that Ontario wines only will be sold for the first three years of the program. The range of wines and beer, as well as the space given to each, will increase gradually, with a refrigerated section coming in the New Year. To avoid unnecessary delays, all the cash lanes will handle beer and wine sales, with each cashier having SmartServe, or having a SmartServe person available.

It seems appropriate that Kemptville is one of the first smaller communities to get this facility. Kemptville native, G. Howard Ferguson, when he was Premier of Ontario, introduced the LCBO to Ontario. The new licence at the YIG supports local Ontario brewers and wine producers, and Steve says he has some craft beers not available through the LCBO. Prices are the same as those charged at LCBO stores, and are tied to any promotions or specials featured at the LCBO in future.

Ultimately, beer and cider will be available in up to 450 grocery stores across Ontario, including 300 that also sell wine. Allowing wine to be sold in grocery stores across the province follows the final recommendations made by the Premier’s Advisory Council on Government Assets. Other recent changes to beverage alcohol retailing in Ontario include the sale of beer in grocery stores last December, cider this June, and online shopping at LCBO.com. The government conducted extensive industry consultations to define a fair and socially responsible model for beer, wine and cider sales in grocery stores.

All grocery stores that sell wine or beer must abide by the requirements for the safe sale of alcohol overseen by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). The sale of wine, beer and cider adheres to standard hours, which are: Monday to Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Staff selling alcohol must be a minimum of 18 years of age and be trained on Ontario’s standards for social responsibility, including making sure customers under the age of 19 and intoxicated individuals do not purchase alcohol. Stores will also be restricted to selling wines with a retail price of $10.95 (per 750 mL bottle) or higher.

Jonsson’s YIG was a very busy place last weekend, quite aside from the new wine and beer sales. Between providing space for the Snowsuit program with the Salvation Army, or gathering food for the food banks, the YIG managed to hold eleven different activities during last week. The store has won Gold Awards from Foodland Ontario in each of the past two years, and has qualified for Platinum status this year, and Steve is hoping that this takes his operation to a new level of service for the people of his community.

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