Shake the LCBO, stir the Beer Store

The Ontario government wants to know what you think of their system for selling alcohol. A long list of Ontario beer players, from Indie Ale House to Keep6 Imports, have used their social media feeds to support the idea of consultation and call for participation.

Head over here and take the survey before it closes on February 1, 2019.

There are three “long answer” questions and about eight multiple choice ones. If you keep it short on the essay answers, you could easily complete the survey in under ten minutes. That’s a small price to pay for a better beer-selling setup, right?

Below are my answers to the long questions. Feel free to crib from my test.

How can the rules on alcohol consumption be changed for the better?

  • Follow the example in the UK and make the legal drinking age 16 for beer and wine if consumed with a table meal while accompanied by an adult.
  • Allow municipalities to allow beer and wine consumption in public parks and on streets. (Perhaps restricted to certain areas or certain times of the year.)
  • Extend BYO licences to cover beer and cider that customers want to bring into restaurants. (As they can now for wine.)

How can the Ontario alcohol system be modernised?

  • Give Ontario breweries the ability to sell beer made by other Ontario breweries.
  • Extend beer and wine sales to corner stores. Tie these licences to tobacco and lottery ticket sales and anyone who is caught selling one to minors is suspended (permanently after the first offense) from selling all three.
  • Return the Beer Store to its original role: As a cooperative wholesaler, warehouse and distribution system for small brewers.

What could be the downside? I’ve seen believable speculation that this is step 1 in Premier Ford’s plan to sell the whole operation for a one-time windfall.

Maybe it is. And that would be a bad thing, I think. Recent history shows that governments, especially this one, are not capable of getting a fair price for assets they sell. Plus, I’d rather the beer market was dominated by a slow-moving, sometimes bumbling, government operation than one owned by AB InBev.

But, then again, maybe it’s not. And how could chipping in your two cents make privatization more likely?

Apparently, the Ontario government wants to use alcohol retailing as a bone to throw to voters. However you feel about what the right hand’s doing, let’s make sure the left is making a positive difference for craft beer in Ontario.

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