In a significant development for fans of alcoholic beverages and convenience, the provincial government has unveiled plans to expand the availability of beer, wine, cider, coolers, seltzers, and other low-alcohol ready-to-drink beverages. According to the Ontario government, effective no later than Jan. 1, 2026, these products will be accessible at participating convenience, grocery, and big box stores throughout the province.
Ontario never really did get its buck-a-beer but they could save a buck or two in gas by strolling down to the corner store for a few brewskis as opposed to driving to the LCBO or Beer Store.
“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.”
As part of this transition, the government has notified Brewers Retail Inc. (The Beer Store) that the Master Framework Agreement (MFA), signed in 2015, will not be renewed after its expiration on December 31, 2025. The Beer Store and LCBO will continue operating in the new marketplace.
Key initiatives of the government’s new plan include:
- Competitive Pricing: Ontario will introduce competitive pricing to all private retailers, while LCBO retail stores will maintain consistent pricing across the province to avoid regional price discrepancies.
- Pack Sizes: Restrictions on pack sizes will be removed, allowing consumers to purchase various pack sizes at convenience, grocery, and big box stores, as well as at the LCBO and The Beer Store.
- Recycling Program: The Beer Store has agreed to continue running the provincewide recycling program for alcoholic beverage containers until at least 2031. The government will consult on the future of recycling and deposit return beyond this period.
- Support for Local Producers: Ontario will provide transitional and time-limited supports to local beverage alcohol producers, including shelf space requirements, support programs for VQA wines, and initiatives to promote and prioritize Ontario-made products.
- Social Responsibility: An additional $10 million over five years will be allocated to the Ministry of Health to support social responsibility and public health efforts, ensuring safe alcohol consumption in the expanded marketplace.
- Wholesale and Distribution: The LCBO will be the exclusive wholesaler for all retail, bars and restaurants selling alcohol, offering a broad array of choices. The Beer Store will maintain its role in beer distribution until at least 2031, ensuring stability in the sector.
“The Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB) applaud the government for delivering on its promise to expand the province’s alcohol retail system, which will put consumers first and make it easier for Ontarians to find and purchase local craft beer,” said Scott Simmons, president of Ontario Craft Brewers. “We are particularly pleased the government is building the system to support Ontario-made producers, for example, by maintaining dedicated shelf space for craft beer and continuing to prevent stocking fees so consumer choice determines what is on the shelves.”
Looking ahead, the government said it plans to engage with industry partners, local beverage alcohol producers, and stakeholders to address licensing, wholesale pricing, taxes, mark-ups, and fees. A broader review of taxes and fees on beer, wine, and alcoholic beverages is also slated to promote a more competitive marketplace for Ontario-based producers and consumers.