Beer sales in Ontario grocery stores worries MADD Canada

Nov 19, 2015 | News

Branden Liezert

The number of grocery stores and outlets selling alcohol could jump to 450 by year's end.

The number of grocery stores and outlets selling alcohol could jump to 450 by year’s end. (Photo/Flickr)

The Ontario government has announced the sale of beer at grocery stores, but drunk driving advocates question the training employees will receive.

According to officials, 60 stores through 13 chains such as Loblaws, Metro and Walmart will sell beer by the end of the year.

It is expected a total of 450 stores will take advantage of the new opportunity.

Carolyn Swinson, a Mothers Against Drunk Driving spokesperson, said one of the organization’s biggest concerns is  the level of control for sales looks to be much less.

“LCBO staff is well trained… they’re trained to recognize anyone who’s had too much to drink,” Swinson said. “Their refusal rate to selling to people who they believe is impaired is huge.”

Swinson said she hopes the staff in these stores that will soon begin selling alcohol will have training to identify potential situations that can lead to danger.

“Our concern is that if these sales go into just regular stores, the level of control just won’t be there,” Swinson said.

Steve Abrams, a co-founder of Mill Street Brewery, said he is excited at the possibility his company’s beer will be sold in grocery stores.

“We would follow suit with the rest of them. It’s no secret that we, and everyone, has been in talk with the various players of this change,” Abrams told Humber News on Thursday.

Abrams added the announcement could mean additional exposure for specialty beers. Mill Street has a unique lineup of flavours, ranging from coffee porter to pumpkin.

“I think visibility is key. That was the struggle,” Abrams said. “What the small breweries were asking for from the get-go with this change was that they wanted better visibility on the shelves.”

Abrams added he has received positive feedback and optimistic outlooks from loyal customers for the most part, but this process hasn’t gone without a few nay-sayers.

“There’s certainly a lot of concerns about underage drinking,” he said. “The government is keenly aware of the negative aspects and anyone who takes on this responsibility will make sure it’s handled properly.”

In announcing who the winning bidders to sell beer in grocery stores, the Ontario government emphasized that it will be done carefully.

“We are moving quickly to ensure that beer will be sold in grocery stores in a socially responsible manner. Using the existing low-cost distribution system keeps Ontario’s beer prices below the Canadian average while offering greater ability to fund key government services and programs that people rely on,” Finance Minister Charles Sousa said in a media release.