January 16, 2015 Comments (6) Views: 5544 GFR Opinion Piece

Why The Beer Store’s Time Is Up

The Beer Store: Well past its best before date, without a shadow of a doubt.

The Beer Store: Well past its best before date, without a shadow of a doubt.


So when was that last time that you had a good experience at The Beer Store? Honestly? Think about it…

I have made a point of avoiding using The Beer Store for almost a decade now, for it was about then that I finally grew tired of its grotty, stinking, stuck-in-Soviet-Russia-era stores and its even grottier, surly staff.

Yes, I am aware that there are plans for some fancy Beer Boutique stores popping around the province, but we are basically talking about The Beer Store putting lipstick on a pig here. It’s exactly the same shit in slightly different packaging, a corporate strategy that they appear to be applying to an increasing number of facets of their infrastructure as its many failings are exposed on a weekly basis.

Whenever I read Toronto Star articles and see anonymous postings in the comment sections that actually defend The Beer Store, stating that they do a good job, I have to wonder as to whether they are Beer Store employees and/or paid shills. You see, I don’t believe that ANYONE has been happy with the services that the Beer Store provides for years.

Yes, that anachronism that is the government-owned LCBO has its fair share of problems, and we all know about those, but compared to the decrepit government-sanctioned private foreign-owned oligopoly that is The Beer Store, the LCBO comes off looking pretty damn good. Indeed it appears that perhaps at last the province is going to step in and change a few things, and it’s about bloody time.

Hopefully these inklings of change are not just posturing on behalf of the Wynne government in an effort to appease the populace whose opinion of The Beer Store is at an all time low. I, for one, am looking forward to what this upcoming March budget brings with regards to a review/reform of The Beer Store and its quite frankly appalling stores, selection, staff, and service. As the man said, I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more. The dismantling of The Beer Store should be a prominent election issue in my mind.

When one looks at the recent desperate political move by The Beer Store to open up the market to smaller craft brewers, it was obvious to all but the woefully-ill-informed that it was very much a case of way-too-little, way-too-late. Sleeman, the third owner of the 448 outlet, 7,000 employee oligopoly, said that the upcoming changes would “improve the transparency and openness of The Beer Store for all Ontario brewers . . . and will allow our input into the evolution of the system.”

Utter bullshit.

This 11th hour concession to the burgeoning Ontario Craft Brewing community is nothing but smoke and mirrors. It was also made without any consultation with the Craft Brewers themselves. This utterly corrupt (non-profit my arse!) foreign corporate behemoth has seen that if they continue along the same path as they have been doing their days are numbered, as the crosshairs of public opinion are slowly focusing upon the men behind the curtain.

For many across the province it was only relatively recently they discovered that The Beer Store was not government-owned as they had believed, but an entirely foreign-owned entity ever since Molson, Sleeman, and Labatt sold out to Coors (USA), Sapporo (Japan), and Anheuser-Busch InBev (Belgium/Brazil) respectively. When that information became common knowledge thanks to the coverage of The Toronto Star, public support for The Beer Store went off the side of a cliff.

Trouble is certainly brewing for The Beer Store.

We’d love to hear your thoughts upon this topic in the comments section below.

P.S. I’d highly recommend that you have a read of this over at Saint John’s Wort.


Jamie DrummondEdinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he strongly feels that something has to give here.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

6 Responses to Why The Beer Store’s Time Is Up

  1. Mark D says:

    I try to avoid the beer store as any beer I want is available at the LCBO, but I do have to go there to drop off empty cans and bottles. Just the bad experience I have each time I go for a drop off makes me wonder what sort of slackers they have working there. I don’t know if it’s the same at all stores, but at the one I go to which is on Gerrard St and Logan Ave, you will find extremely filthy, sticky baskets that I have to handle to put by returned items in. In the summer, not only do they have a strong sour smell nut there are fruit flies buzzing all around them. When I go to the grocery store, the baskets are not this the ones at the beer store. I’m not sure why they don’t give then a quick rinse once a week, it’s not hard to do! I can’t even remember the last time I actually bought beer at the Beer Store as I try to leave ASAP!

  2. The crew at my local Beer Store are courteous, professional and friendly (I bring back a lot of empty wine bottles, so they know me well), but otherwise I’m on board with Jamie.

    The trouble with trying to inject some sanity into the drinks business in Ontario are the vested interests. In this case it’s big business trying to protect their market share against the craft brewers, but it’s also The United Food and Commercial Workers union. The Beer Store employs 6,000 unionized workers, with benefits and pensions. This is how the Beer Store (and the LCBO for that matter) manage to survive for so long: they play to both sides of the political spectrum.

    • Derek says:

      You speak of employees at the beer store so disparaging. Mark D? Slackers? Come for a drive with me in July as I do deliveries …One stop in particular where I have to hand bomb 2000+ cases. Please don’t take the vitriol that you have for ownership out on employees. We are for the most part hard working Ontarian’s trying our best to serve you. Have a good weekend fellas

  3. Jamie Drummond says:

    I see you are very much against the sale of alcohol in corner stores, Derek:


    Some interesting comments on that piece.

    Oh… and speaking of paid shills:


  4. stephen knifton says:

    i love the new PSA’s on the radio that the Beeritburo probably had planned for a long time and happen to be coinciding with this bad publicity only coincidentally. You can see the ‘director’ of the spots just off mic, pointing a rifle at the actor as he tries to spit out lines about new improved good service and fairness with a straight face.

  5. John Mallon says:

    As a licensee I am thrilled that THE BEER STORE is finally being exposed for what it is – a great big lie, one that has been told so often it became the truth in many minds. Their propaganda, especially as of late, makes me want to puke. My pub has 24 lines. The beer store products once commanded 20 taps. Now, however, they are down to 8. The other 16 are devoted to craft and import beers delivered to me by independent companies which allow me to pay by credit card. Yes, a credit card, thus racking up large amounts of reward points, a service denied me as a licensee but granted to me as a private citizen by THE BEER STORE. As John Q Public, I get all sorts of deals at THE BEER STORE. These sales are denied me as a publican. Compared to THE BEER STORE the LCBO is progressive. I get all their deals, including the minis attached as a promotion to the top of the bottle, and, what’s more, yes, I can pay with credit card.

    I would like every licensee to boycott THE BEER STORE for a month to remind them who their biggest customer is.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.