There are some Beer Store employees that, I’m pretty sure, aren’t too happy with me. I’ve made it a mission to correct the half-truths the BS continues to spread and point out some of the back channels the ownership uses to maintain its hold on the market. I’ve felt the feedback on Twitter and noted the comments on NOW Magazine’s website.
To be clear though – and I want to be crystal clear about this – I have no issue with Beer Store employees. I don’t shop there often, but occasionally I’ll swing by on the way to a friend’s place because, for me, it’s more convenient (read: less inconvenient) than my closest LCBO… if I’m travelling southeast.
On those rare occasions I line up like everyone else, basking in that stale aroma of refrigerants and empties, and wait my turn. It’s dull and it’s deflating, but that’s not the fault of the people who work there.
I can’t recall a Beer Store employee being rude to me. Generally they get my order quickly. Generally they get my order right.
The other day I had the opportunity to chat with the owner of Kensington Brewing Company for another piece I’m working on. Brock Shepherd, as you may know, recently added Fruit Stand Watermelon Wheat to the Beer Store’s inventory. Despite winning the Golden Tap Award (voted on by the public) as the top specialty or seasonal beer in Ontario last year, the LCBO, for whatever reason, felt it wasn’t right for their customers. So at a cost of roughly $15,000, Shepherd bought listings at approximately 40 Beer Store locations from Ottawa to the GTA, and right into cottage country.
He’s not complaining. In fact, he says his dealings with the Beer Store have been excellent. The people he interacts with have been very supportive of craft beer. His product moves more quickly through its system, than the LCBO. It’s the leadership, Shepherd feels, that makes it difficult for the little guys.
They’re also the ones devoting resources to misleading the public when they should be focused on improving their own stores. Ted Moroz, as you likely know, is the President of the Beer Store. I happened to be in Calgary when he spoke to the Toronto Board of Trade in February.
“I checked it yesterday. In a private store in Calgary, 24 bottles of Molson Canadian cost $50.70. In The Beer Store today, it’s 37.95.” - Ted Moroz, February 10, 2014
So he checked with one of the 1,300 private retailers in the province. Good job, Ted.
What if he had called Safeway – one of the largest liquor retailers in the province, where I happened to be that day – and asked them? If he had found Molson Canadian widely available at a lower price (as it often is) would he share that with the B.O.T.?
I don’t have any archived flyers from February, but here’s what I found today at the one place I looked.
Twenty four cans at the Beer Store are also currently on sale… for $39.95… the same price as their competition at the LCBO. Note that if you shop on Tuesday, Sobey’s will knock off another 10%. Why? Because they have actual competition.
The Beer Store prez also alleged in his speech that Alberta’s move to privatize did not lead to increased selection.
“So again, the facts show that deregulation will not generate any improvement in product selection.” - Ted Moroz, February 10, 2014
“Facts?” Ted? Really? I assume, again, he called one outlet to ask what’s on the shelf, because if he had phoned Sherbrooke Liquor in Edmonton he would have learned they have more variety in one, easy-to-browse location than the LCBO and Beer Store combined. (You can also pick up the bottles, check date codes and actually read the labels before committing to purchase, just like you should be able to do with anything you put in your body).
As long as the company keeps turning out bullshit I’m going to continue to call them on it. If Ted Moroz really believes more options are bad for the province, he should be dismantling the Beer Store in favour of an LCBO-only environment. You can argue for a free market or a government monopoly, but to suggest the Beer Store is the only competent private retailer is as absurd as it is insulting.
From what I can tell Beer Store employees do a fine job. If we open the system to more competition, so could thousands of other Ontarians.