A trip to most gas stations in Quebec (or really any Canadian province or US state) can be the epitome of convenience when in need of an alcoholic drink. Ontario has long been the anomaly. It’s true that there are now many more LCBO convenience outlets than in years past, allowing residents of small villages to have a place for purchasing drinks without travelling to a town large enough to have its own dedicated LBCO or Beer Store. Many grocery stores are also allowed to sell beer and wine now. But Ontario remains behind its neighbours – though not for long.
The provincial government has announced that by January 1, 2026, Ontario convenience stores, grocery stores, and large retail stores will be allowed to sell “low alcohol” drinks such as beer, wine, and coolers. Higher alcohol spirits such as vodka and whiskey will continue to be sold exclusively by the LCBO and its smaller convenience outlets. Why the wait? The answer lies in a decision made by the previous provincial government in 2015.
A release sent to the Times explains: “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, [which] 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 new plan will include the option for retailers to price products competitively, an elimination of pack size limits for non-LCBO and non-Beer Store retailers, and several funding and market provisions that are designed to keep the alcohol industry safe and fair.
“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.”
Cheers to increased convenience… eventually!