I’m writing this on the eve of the potential LCBO strike. Cutting off access to Ontarians alcohol supply (well, wine and liquor) is a threat that has been used by the LCBO unions in past labour negotiations and yet the booze has continued to flow.
The rhetoric currently states that this time it will be different, they may actually go on strike, the alcohol may dry up. To be honest, I’m not concerned and to be really honest I support the strike action because I would like to see a mature, thoughtful debate on the role of government in alcohol distribution and sales. This was briefly discussed in my Sommelier Advanced class – primarily between my instructor and I – as I lived in Calgary and I enjoyed visiting different wine shops and having a choice in my alcohol purchases. I also enjoyed lower prices – not only because of Alberta’s lower taxes, but because of pure competition. Capitalism at its finest!
As an aside, I honestly think that increasing the distribution of beer is something that requires serious thought, especially when one understands the ownership structure of the Beer Store.
Why am I not worried about this strike? Here are a few reasons:
- Gatineau: as an Ottawa resident, I can easily drive over the river and purchase wine, liquor and beer to my hearts content. I may pay a dollar or two more for a bottle than I normally would (SAQ prices are higher on wine than the LCBO) but if I am in a truly desperate situation I will grit my teeth and bear it.
- Craft brewers: I already refuse to support the Beer Store but for those who purchase their craft beer in the LCBO, this strike will provide an opportunity for them to venture out to some of the nanobreweries that operate within many Ontario communities. Ottawa has great options including Beyond the Pale, Kichesippi and Broadhead while there are brewpubs like Big Rig, Mill Street and Clocktower that will also ensure the taps keeps flowing. Torontonians are lucky to have a wealth of options including one of my new favourites, Bellwoods Brewery.
- Ontario wineries: having wine shipped from an Ontario winery is a relatively painless process. You can use a third party, such as Savvy Company, or contact the wineries directly to have a case (or less, depending on their policies) shipped to your home or office. For those who are close to Prince Edward County or Niagara, this could be an excellent excuse for a day or weekend away. I would just recommend a cooler to store your goodies as the temperature increases.
- Craft distilleries: yes, there are small craft distilleries in Ontario. 66 Gilead Distillery is in Prince Edward County and would be a nice stopover on your County wine trip! Dillon’s is in Beamsville and there is Still Waters in Concord, ON. Some quick searching on Google will turn up a few more for your perusal.
- Agency stores: these are located in smaller, rural communities where the population does not support a full scale LCBO. The staff are generally not unionized which means they will not be striking.
- The Wine Rack: this is probably my least preferred option as I am not a fan of their concept or limited selection. I understand the history of the Wine Rack and why they exist (grandfathered legislation) but I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I patronized one of these outlets.
Although many Ontarians do not have the option to hop a provincial border, I do believe that my remaining “reasons not to worry” are applicable throughout the province. I’m also refraining from buying any alcohol this week as I see absolutely no reason to panic.
And neither should you.