Ontario Beer Store monopoly hurts commerce

If you want to get drunk for cheap, go to The Beer Store and get the cheapest 2-4 you can find, probably the Wildcat. That’s what the Beer Store is good for. But if you want to try different beers, cross the border over to Québec, and go to the corner store: in some places the selection is staggering. But it won’t happen in Ontario until there is a change in policy.

hard to get in Ontario!

Beer selection: Ontario microbrewers barred from market! From left to right: La fumisterie, Rosée d

Last month I went to Le dépaneur de la rive near Québec City and indulged myself with the most amazing 2-4 I have ever bought. It was the most expensive too, nearing $120, but those beers I cannot find in Ontario, thanks to the Beer Store monopoly, who won’t offer beer from small local brewers for some reason which I personally classify as “religious”.

So on one side of the border you’ve got thriving local businesses creating new products, and on the other, well, I suppose you can drink the Wildcat, or the Stella, and send your money to foreign shareholders, maybe your mutual fund will benefit, but somehow I doubt it.

The Beer Store is not all that bad, for instance, a friend bought me a Beau’s at the Trim Road Beer Store. But Beau’s history with the Beer Store is rather interesting. David vs. Goliath if you will, or rather David vs. Dalton. Yes, Dalton McGuinty says beer should only be sold at the Beer Store because it is best able to limit minors’ access to beer.

But if minor’s access to beer were truly a problem, we’d see more drunk minors in Ottawa than in Toronto, because Ottawa minors have access to beer across the bridge in Québec. And there would be more minors with beer problems in Québec than in Ontario. And same for the rest of the world where there is no Beer Store.

The other reason given by the government for the Beer Store monopoly is their bottle recycling program. Sorry but beer bottle recycling happens also in Québec, and Québec has been handing 5 to 20 cents per aluminum can for as long as I can remember. The same cannot be said for Ontario. I will grant you that wine bottles are still not taken back by the SAQ.

But that is not the end of it. Beau’s ceramic bottles are truly beautiful, and there is no doubt they are much more expensive and more durable than the “industry standard” twist cap el-cheapo beer bottle. So you would expect the deposit to reflect the durability and cost of the bottle. Wrong. I was reading Beau’s blog where I found that brewers are not allowed to price the deposit according to cost. See the 3rd bottle from the right in the picture above, the Saint-Arnould? There is a $5 deposit on that special bottle. It reflects the cost of the bottle, they way free markets are supposed to work.

Please sign the nobeerstore petition.


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