LCBO to open 5 stores starting next week for bar and restaurant owners to shop amid strike

LCBO workers officially hit the picket lines Friday. As Tina Yazdani reports, union leaders say they will not return to the bargaining table unless a Ford government policy is reversed.

By Richard Southern

All LCBO stores are closed to the public due to the workers’ strike, but 680 NewsRadio has learned that five locations will open starting July 10 for bar and restaurant owners only.

Wholesale customers will be able to book an appointment 12:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. to shop in-store at the five select locations in Toronto, Mississauga, Woodbridge, London, Ottawa. The exact locations are unknown at this point.

This is the process that will continue until the select LCBO locations open to the public on July 19 with management staffing the cash registers. At that point, 32 locations will open from Friday to Sunday for limited hours.

Bar and restaurant owners will also be able to place online orders for delivery three to seven days later, though it’s not clear how this process will work as Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), the union representing LCBO workers, have pledged to picket warehouses.

While there are questions about bars and restaurants getting the liquor they need, there is no concern regarding their supply of beer and wine.

Bars and restaurants in the province buy beer from the privately-run The Beer Store which is not impacted by the LCBO strike.

Wine can also be sourced from local wineries, though the selection is not as great as what the LCBO offers.

OPSEU’s Colleen Macleod was asked about the plan to open five stores, and said it was news to them.

“So I guess the political pressure is on so I’m guessing that they said, ‘Okay, we’ll open five stores.’ Do I know what our picket strategy is right now? I just found out the news, so no.”

OPSEU president JP Hornick told CityNews, “That would be crossing the picket line so it would be chaos.”

680 NewsRadio has reached out to LCBO management for their response.

More than 9,000 LCBO workers walked off the job at 12:01 a.m. on Friday after failing to come to an agreement with management. A major sticking point, according to the union, has been the plan to sell beer, wine and ready-to-drink beverages at convenience stores and grocery stores across the province.

OPSEU said the current plan from the Ford government could mean thousands of lost jobs across the province along with millions of dollars in public revenue.

The provincial finance minister’s office tells CityNews even as successive governments have expanded alcohol sales to stores, bars and restaurants, LCBO revenues and the dividends paid to the government have continued to grow year-over-year.

As for OPSEU’s main sticking point regarding the sale of ready-to-drink beverages in convenience and grocery stores, the ministry points out that those beverages make up just over nine per cent of all LCBO sales.

Currently, there are no bargaining dates scheduled and MacLeod said they won’t go back to the table until they see some movement from the province on the ready-to-drink issue. The government says it is “more committed than ever” to its plans.

The province has encouraged Ontarians to use the current other options available during a strike.

“We encourage people across Ontario to take advantage of the thousands of available options, including local breweries, wineries, cideries, distilleries, restaurants, bars, LCBO convenience outlets, grocery stores, and The Beer Store.”

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