Rumour: Potential End of the Beer Store’s Exclusive Rights
Speculation is mounting about the potential end of the Beer Store’s exclusive rights in Ontario’s beer market.
Premier Doug Ford is actively pursuing his goal to introduce beer and wine sales in convenience stores across Ontario. He confirmed his ongoing efforts to broaden the scope of alcohol retail in the province.
This initiative, though not as prominent as his earlier “buck-a-beer” campaign, is still a key focus for Ford.
In May, Ford mentioned collaborating with the Beer Store during this transition. However, the future of this chain, Ontario’s primary beer retailer and the sole vendor authorized to sell beer by the case, is uncertain as it faces the prospect of increased competition.
Recent insider reports suggest that under Ford’s administration, there might be no renewal of the Master Framework Agreement, which currently imposes stringent restrictions on beer sales in non-Beer Store outlets.
Owned predominantly by major breweries like Molson, Labatt, and Sleeman, with a minor share held by local brewers, the Beer Store’s agreement is set to expire in 2025. This year marks the deadline for the government to notify relevant parties if the agreement is not to be renewed. Observers have noted the Beer Store’s recent downsizing and property sales, reducing its presence by four percent.
While the closure of the Beer Store remains speculative, public opinion seems largely in favor of ending what many perceive as a problematic monopoly or oligopoly in the province.
Some argue that ending the Beer Store’s monopoly is overdue and that consumers would benefit from a wider selection of sellers.
However, concerns are being raised, particularly regarding the potential discontinuation of the Beer Store’s deposit-return program and its impact on recycling management by municipal systems.
Job losses are another worry if the Beer Store ceases operations, along with fears of rising beer prices.
There’s also speculation that only mainstream beers might dominate the market, though currently, non-Labatt (Anheuser-Busch), Molson Coors, or Sleeman (Sapporo) brands must pay a fee to be sold in the Beer Store.
As Ford stated in spring, reaffirming his commitment to open up the market, “The Beer Store is owned by three massive beer companies — foreign, may I add, foreign beer companies… I don’t think that monopoly’s right.”
At the time of this report, neither the Premier’s Office nor the Beer Store had commented on the potential termination of the Master Framework Agreement.