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Beer Store opens ownership to Ontario-based brewers

An image of the new upgraded Beer Store logo. Amber LeBlanc/680News.

The Beer Store is opening its doors to wider ownership, including smaller Ontario-based brewers.

“The Beer Store’s current owners said opening ownership makes sense for Ontario brewers and consumers,” the Beer Store announced on Wednesday.

The retailer has been under pressure to widen its offerings after the Toronto Star published details of a deal between the Beer Store and LCBO.

The Beer Store said even as the media debate was taking place, the owners were working behind the scenes to reshape the shareholder agreement and make the retailer more open and transparent.

The Beer Store, which is currently owned by Molson Coors, Anheuser-Busch Inbev and Sapporo, will sell shares to smaller brewers.

Under the new ownership structure, larger Beer Store owners — with annual sales of over five-million litres per year — will pay the same fees as current owners to sell their beer. Smaller brewers — with sales under five million litres per year — will pay discounted fees.

“These will help improve the transparency and openness of The Beer Store for all Ontario brewers, including Sleeman, and will allow our input into the evolution of the system,” John Sleeman, chairman Sleeman Breweries said in a statement.

The craft companies who sell less than a million litres of beer per year won’t have to pay a listing fee when stocking two of their products at the five Beer Store locations closest to their brewery.

Brewers will also be able to replace a new or existing brand with a seasonal brand twice a year at no extra cost.

Also, brewers can list the same two products at any additional Beer Store location for a lower listing fee and pay just the per-store fee.

CEO of the Ontario Convenience Stores Association, Dave Bryans, called the move “window dressing” to protect its monopoly.

“The same three foreign brewers would remain firmly in control.  It does nothing to provide consumers with more choice and convenience and will do little to help craft brewers,” he said in a statement to CityNews.

“Convenience stores are the largest retailers of beer elsewhere in North America and are ready to offer consumers and craft brewers convenience, choice and new retailing space in Ontario.”

Beer Store president Ted Moroz said it “listened and acted” and that as a result of the change, all Ontario brewers will be able to participate in the Beer Store’s management.

The Beer Store claims it will significantly reduce the cost for Ontario brewers to sell their products and allow for sales growth.

“The smallest Ontario brewers will get improved opportunities to grow their sales volumes at a significantly reduced cost,” Moroz said.

Brewers will still be able to set their own prices, as per usual.