Ontario: Beer Store Reveals the Beer Boutique

If you live and drink in southern Ontario, you may have heard that the Molson and Labatt controlled Beer Store (TBS, which is responsible for some 85% of the beer sold in the province) has decided to step into the last century and open an off-shoot called the Beer Boutique, the first outlet of which premiered in Toronto’s Liberty Village last night.

(I know, Sapporo also has a stake in TBS, since the ownership of the erstwhile co-operative is doled out by market share, but let’s face it, control still rests with the big boys.)

Curiosity drove me to attend the media launch, which was packed with print and electronic media, not to mention brewery execs and salespeople. Said I: “Only in Ontario could the opening of a nice beer store be a media event.”

And the Beer Boutique is a nice beer store, make no mistake. Ringed with coolers, atmospherically lit and evidently set up for the future hosting of tasting events and such, TBS has pulled a page from the LCBO’s playbook and created a pleasant environment in which to purchase beer. But that’s it! This is not revolutionary, it does not feature any brands unavailable elsewhere, it is not (as yet) expanding the range of beer choice in the province and it does not offer domestic and imported craft beers any competitive advantage. It is a nice store with beer, period.

The Beer Boutique may improve on some of these fronts over time as more outlets open — I had to leave before the speechifying — but for now it remains just a nice place at which to buy beer. And almost anywhere else in the beer drinking world, that ain’t news.

4 Replies to “Ontario: Beer Store Reveals the Beer Boutique”

  1. One of the many levels of my confusion relates to being in a Beer Store a couple of years ago in Whitby that seemed to be constructed exactly like this but lacked the branding.


  2. As long as The Beer Store thinks the problem is the look of the stores, rather than the content of said stores, that is the problem – absolutely nothing will change. The way to grow a market is to give people more choices – not the same choices in a prettier package. There is so much demand here for quality beer and these stores are just completely missing the opportunity to make money hand over fist by ignoring it. While I agree that being able to “gasp” select my own six-pack from a cooler is nice – it still little more than lipstick on a pig.

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