BACKGROUNDER: Responsible alcohol retailing

TORONTO, April 15, 2014 /CNW/ - The following contains background information about responsible retailing policies at the Beer Store, along with related studies and relevant factual information about potential deregulation of alcohol retailing in Ontario. More information can be found at 

1. The Beer Store's Social Responsibility Policy
The Beer Store actively promotes strict policies to keep alcohol from being sold to people who are underage or intoxicated.

Through the We ID 251 program, the Beer Store requires staff to ask for proper identification from anyone who appears to be 25 years of age or younger.  Service is also refused to those who appear to be intoxicated. Last year, Beer Store employees challenged 3.6 million customers – and refused service to more than 100,000 consumers for being underage or intoxicated.

2. Sales to minors in Ontario by convenience stores
Using a 17-year-old mystery shopper, the research firm Ipsos Reid tested2 190 convenience stores across Ontario in February 2014 to determine if they were asking for proper ID on cigarette sales.

An alarming 1-in-5 (21 per cent) stores did not ask for valid identification – in Toronto the result was even worse, with 56 per cent of convenience stores allowing the underage patron to buy cigarettes.

3.  Sales to minors in the United States of America
Proponents of alcohol deregulation point to the United States as an example of the way things should work.  But studies show that retailers in the US frequently sell alcohol to underage consumers without checking for ID.

In October 2013, New York State officials did an undercover mystery shopper survey using minors at grocery and liquor stores.  They found that 30 per cent of these retailers sold alcohol to minors.3

Washington State, which recently privatized its government liquor stores, tested both government stores and private sector retailers (which sold wine and beer) and other licensees. In 2011, 23 per cent of private licensees sold alcohol to a minor – while only 6 per cent of government stores sold alcohol to a minor.4

4. Security
The Beer Store has sophisticated security systems and staff security training in its 450 stores across Ontario. Police officials have confirmed that this is not the case at the 15,000 convenience store and gas station locations across Ontario, many with poor or non-functioning security systems.

5. Location
The Beer Store follows strict regulations with regard to where we locate stores to live up to and exceed its obligations as a responsible retailer. Ontario's 15,000 convenience stores and gas stations are located near schools, playgrounds, parks and in the middle of neighbourhoods, locations inconsistent with responsible retailing policies.

6. Research on expanded alcohol retailing
The Ontario Convenience Stores Association (OCSA) claims there is no risk to public health in allowing the sale of liquor at their outlets. Independent, third-party research by public-health experts demonstrates the opposite.

On March 26, 2014, researchers Norman Giesbrecht and Ashley Wettlaufer of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) met via webinar with Ontario public health officials to survey recent studies on minimizing harm through controlling the density of alcohol outlets. The work was done on behalf of Public Health Ontario. The researchers concluded there is a large and growing body of evidence that deregulation of the sale of alcohol is a threat to public health and safety.

They stated that several studies conducted in Canada, the United States, Australia and throughout the world have found clear evidence of a direct link between higher rates of violence, crime, social problems, impaired driving and personal injury, and increased density of alcohol outlets, particularly privately owned ones.

"This is very timely for Ontario because there's ongoing pressures to deregulate and typically this is presented as harm-free, but there's clearly evidence it's not without harm," said Mr. Giesbrecht.

"We need to address the misconceptions or limitations with regard to the public, media and policy makers. As indicated here, many are not aware of the risks. They often assume that precautionary policies are prohibitionist, which they are not. They are designed to reduce harm, not prohibit the sale of alcohol," he said.

CAMH researchers appeared before a committee of the Ontario legislature in 20125 and said that increasing the number of private alcohol outlets in Canada could lead to a 16.5 per cent increase in alcohol- related mortality, an 8.4 per cent increase in years of life lost, and an 8.2 per cent increase in alcohol-related acute-care hospital days, along with a substantial increase in health-care costs.

A number of other reports cite similar concerns:

  • In a CAMH report, Ontario ranks6 No. 1 in Canada among all provinces and territories when measured on achieving public health and safety benefits from effective alcohol policies.
  • Another CAMH report7 concluded that in terms of the debate about convenience store and gas station alcohol sales, "Ontario is urged to place a moratorium on the expansion of private outlets… (such as) grocery and convenience store sales."
  • Ontario has the lowest number of impairment-related crash deaths per 100,000 population in Canada, according to a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) report8.

7. The Beer Store Staff Training
The Beer Store provides extensive training and retraining to all employees who deal with the public or other third parties on their behalf, as well as all those who are involved in the development and approvals of customer service policies, practices and procedures.

Training is provided in the Employee Orientation package that staff receive when hired. It includes:

  • The We ID 25 program;
  • The Beer Store policies, practices and procedures relating to the customer service standard.

Staff are also trained on an ongoing basis when changes are made to these policies, practices and procedures.

8. Reporting
The Beer Store reports publicly each year on several key measures:

  • Monitoring of responsible sales and service
  • Beer tax contributions
  • Financial statements
  • Year in beer sales
  • Environmental Leadership, the Bag It Back program

9. One Independent Brewer's View
"When I visit retail liquor outlets in the United States or in one of the many other countries where Moosehead beer is distributed, I am frequently struck by the relaxed manner in which alcohol is sometimes sold. Not all vendors are perfect models of responsible retailing. 

"On the other hand, it is rare to witness sales to minors or the intoxicated from a government-operated liquor outlet or, in Ontario, the Beer Store (TBS).  I believe the overwhelming majority of Canadians want it that way. 

"Consumers should be aware that TBS and government liquor store employees are often well-trained, career professionals.  As such, responsible purchase is very important to them.  This is not always the case with private vendors where staff turnover is higher among minimum-wage employees."

- Andrew Oland, CEO, Moosehead Breweries Limited

4 Washington WSLCB Annual Report, 2011
5 Norman Giesbrecht presentation to the Ontario legislature's Standing Committee on Government Agencies, June 25, 2012

SOURCE: Canada's National Brewers

For further information: To coordinate interviews, contact: Jay Armitage, 416-645-8174 (o), 416-917-0489 (m),; Justin Hane, 416-645-8184 (o),

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