It seems that whatever the much touted changes to beer distribution in Ontario will be, they will not include putting beer in corner stores. The jury is still out on whether large chains like Loblaws and Costco will be able to sell (there is currently a pilot project to put LCBO counters in some grocery stores already), but there is a definite no on convenience stores selling alcohol of any sort.
Should beer be in small stores?
To me, it would seem that the most obvious reason for keeping beer out of convenience stores is the fear that small business owners may not exercise the same discretion as a large chain whose employees have no personal stake in the sale of the product. Indeed, it was this exact fear that the Beer Store tried to capitalize on when they ran a rather ridiculous series of “Beer Facts” commercials. While the commercials largely backfired, the sentiment that underlies them, in my opinion still exists.
The problem is, there aren’t really a whole lot of facts to either support or rebut a claim that placing beer in small stores will increase socially irresponsible sales or consumption. Having been to Quebec a number of times, I can’t say that I saw anything particularly worrying with the depanneur system, but that does not necessarily mean anything in regards to introducing a system in Ontario (assuming my impression was at all accurate).
Personally, I feel the best system would be dedicated beer retailers which could be subject to more stringent regulation. I have long thought the OCB would be a natural choice to help run stores for the sale of craft beer. After all, many breweries run successful retail stores which have thus far not caused any problems.