Earlier this week, Ontario announced its plans to significantly modify the alcohol retail sector, with the end of the exclusive control by the Beer Store and the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). Starting January 1, 2026, an estimated 8,500 new outlets, such as convenience stores, grocery stores, and big box stores, will be permitted to sell beer, wine, cider, and ready-to-drink spirits.
Notable changes include:
- Introduction of competitive pricing for private retailers, while maintaining consistent pricing at the LCBO.
- Removal of restrictions and exclusivities on alcohol pack sizes for both the private and public retailers.
- Maintenance of the recycling program through the Beer Store until 2031.
- Support measures for local producers to ensure a successful transition to a more open marketplace, including the removal of the 6.1% wine basic tax at on-site winery retail stores.
This initiative is part of the Ford government’s broader agenda to enhance consumer choice and promote economic growth, and fulfills a promise originally made in the 2018 election campaign. The plan aims to offer Ontarians more autonomy in alcohol purchases, diverging from the province’s historically restrictive alcohol retail regulations. This approach prioritizes consumer accessibility and convenience, encouraging a more competitive retail environment and greater economic stimulus.
Ontario’s move aligns it with other Canadian provinces, most notably Quebec, where beer sales in convenience stores are common.
WHAT THE GOVERNMENT IS SAYING:
“We made a promise to the people of Ontario to deliver more choice and convenience. 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.” – Premier Doug Ford
WHAT EXPERTS ARE SAYING:
“For decades, Ontario wineries have faced disadvantages that other wine producing regions do not face in their home markets. Today’s announcement by the Ontario government recognizes what we have long said: wine regions are catalysts for economic growth. Every dollar spent on wine grown in Ontario is a dollar going back into the economic growth of Ontario, through agricultural jobs, small business growth and agri-tourism. The government’s plan will put us back on track for not only sustaining, but growing our agricultural businesses for generations to come.” – Richard Linley, President, Ontario Craft Wineries
“Today’s announcement is welcome news for Ontario’s convenience stores. Removing antiquated restrictions on the sale of beer, wine, coolers and ready-to-drink beverages will create new revenue streams for our local businesses and meet customer demands in an increasingly competitive marketplace. This is an important step, and we are committed to working with the government on the specific details on a responsible and successful transition of these new products into our stores.”- Anne Kothawala, President & CEO, Convenience Industry Council of Canada
“We are pleased to see the government move to end the Master Framework Agreement with The Beer Store. By ending the MFA, Premier Ford is moving Ontario forward and opening up choices for consumers; more grocery stores will soon sell more alcohol options in all formats and sizes – 12-packs, 24-packs, and even larger formats.” – Diane J. Brisebois, President & CEO, Retail Council of Canada
“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. 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.” – Scott Simmons, President, Ontario Craft Brewers
KEY TAKEAWAYS AND NEXT STEPS:
This policy change in Ontario’s alcohol market presents new opportunities for businesses and consumers, aligning with the Progressive Conservative’s vision of enhancing competition and consumer choice. Ontario’s shift in alcohol retail policy is a step towards modernizing the province’s approach to alcohol sales, with positive implications for consumer costs and convenience, market competition, and the overall economic landscape.
Moving forward, the Government of Ontario will work to develop and finalize an implementation framework for this new policy, ahead of 2026. Additionally, the government will be consulting with industry stakeholders on other updates for the new marketplace, along with conducting a review of the tax and fee regime on alcoholic beverages.
Want to learn more about how this could impact your business? Set up a consultation with JB+A today.
JB+A Senior Management Team: