Let’s hope it’s last call for dowdy, rundown Beer Stores
One of the only good ideas I’ve heard from Ontario Conservative leader Tim (Right To Work) Hudak is to allow beer to be sold in corner stores.
As my colleague Martin Regg Cohn argued in two recent columns, it is unacceptable that a consortium of foreign-owned breweries have a monopoly over the sale of beer in Ontario.
The Beer Store’s 440-store retail distribution empire is designed to steer people to suds made by the consortium, and away from the products of smaller, Canadian-based brewers.
It is inherently unfair to the little guys, supports inflated prices and perpetuates an anachronistic, 85-year-old system created at the end of prohibition that causes snickering among people from Quebec and the U.S., where it would never be tolerated.
I’m not much of a drinker, but I like a beer or two. It would be nice to be able to pick up a dozen while I’m at the grocery store, instead of making a separate trip to a Beer Store.
But the biggest problem I have is that so many of the stores, especially in working-class parts of town, are rundown dives that are a blight on the neighbourhood.
I wrote several columns last year about skanky Beer Stores, including one on Dundas St. W. that a reader nominated as the worst in the city – until others suggested stores that were at least as bad.
They attract a clientele that hang around near the doors and panhandle for enough change to buy a king-can, or can be found at the bottle-return counter, redeeming empties that were fished out of who knows where.
While shooting photos of the Dundas St. store, a guy who overestimated my interest in him started screaming that I didn’t have permission to take his picture (I wasn’t), got in my face and wanted to fight.
I tap-danced my way out of there, real quick.
By the way, has anyone else noticed that half of all Beer Store rounders sport a black eye or a fat lip?
The Beer Store’s management resented my observations, saying they’ve built some nice new stores, but they’re in upscale areas or newly built parts of places like Mississauga or Vaughan.
With politicians threatening to end their monopoly whenever an election is nigh, it is not unreasonable to conclude that sooner or later, a government might make good on it.
The Beer Store could have got out in front of it years ago by improving all of its stores, making it easier for people to buy suds produced by smaller breweries and allowing for more price competition.
The LCBO did that long ago, when its monopoly was questioned, and transformed shopping for a bottle of wine into a not unpleasant experience.
The Beer Store opted to stay with quick and dirty, and deserves to lose it.