Booze + Food = a Winning Combination?

On Tuesday, the Ontario government announced it will go ahead with the LCBO Express pilot project first announced two years ago.

LCBO Express stores (staffed by LCBO employees) will be located within, or adjacent to, large grocery stores and will provide a wide range of products, including Ontario wine, spirits and beer.

The LCBO is requesting that retailers that are interested in setting up an LCBO Express in their outlets apply by May 9, 2014.  At most, we can hope to see approximately 10 Express outlets by the end of the year.

The requirements for stores wanting to host their own LCBO:

  • at least 2,000 square feet of retail space for the kiosks;
  • not within half a km of an existing LCBO location;
  • LCBO employees must have access to the store’s washroom (within 45 metres from the kiosk); and
  • the store itself must be at least 15,000 square feet with 12,000 of that dedicated to food products.

While this is good news for those of us who don’t want to make  separate stops for our vodka and tonic or wine and cheese, it may not be good news for some. Smaller grocers are concerned that big chains will disproportionally benefit from the pilot project, drawing more customers to their stores.  And convenience stores are feeling entirely left out of the fun.

The potential silver lining:  it appears the government is leaving the door open to expanding the program to smaller retailers in the future, as Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa said, “This is just a phase, this is just a first step.”

For now, we’ll watch and see with great anticipation how quickly this program gets rolled out.  For those of you hoping the LCBO Express will provide a late night booze option (24-hour grocery stores, here we come!) you will be disappointed to learn that Express outlets will keep the same hours as regular LCBO stores, not the hours of the grocery store.

Oh well – we can’t always have it all, right?

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