Beer comes to Oakville grocery stores


Good news for college students. Beside the frozen pizza and dinners, a selection of beer is now for sale at three Oakville grocery stores.

Longo’s Cornwall and Burloak locations and Freshco on Third line are among 60 in Ontario that are now allowed to sell beer. They are the first of many. Up to 450 grocery stores will soon be authorized to do the same.


Rosanne Longo and Mike Arnold with Kevin Flynn, centre, in front of Longo’s Burloak “beer fridge” in Aisle 6. (Photograph by Erin Queenan)

Oakville MPP Kevin Flynn launched the start of beer sales at Longo’s Burloak location last Friday morning.

“For Ontario and for Canada this is a really big day. It’s going to make our lives a little easier and more convenient,” he said, standing in Aisle 6 with “the beer fridge” behind him.

Joining him in the introduction was Rosanne Longo, Longo’s spokesperson and brand ambassador, and Mike Arnold, owner of Oakville craft beermaker Trafalgar Brewery.

“Selling beer at Longo’s is about improving the shopper experience and expanding the availability of beverages alongside food,” said Longo.

Many grocery stores applied to have beer on their shelves according to Flynn. The two Longo’s stores in Oakville are among the first to be approved.

Groceries will only be able to sell singles or six-packs. The Beer Store will still have a monopoly of two-fours and 12-packs. As a rule, small brewers must occupy a minimum of 20 per cent of shelf space.

In his introduction, Flynn emphasized his passion for craft brewing.

“Craft brewing is like if you wake up one morning and decide you could build a better computer than IBM could and you went out there and did it,” said Flynn.

Trafalgar Brewery, on Speers Rd. in Oakville, was founded by Arnold, his wife, and George Hengstman in 1993. It specializes in uniquely brewed small batches of beer and is recognized as one of Ontario’s most progressive small breweries.

“We’re very excited to see our beer on grocery store shelves – not only within our community but in other markets as well,” said Arnold. Flynn and Arnold have known each other for 20 years.

Premier Kathleen Wynne bought a six-pack of Rhyme & Reason dry hopped extra pale ale before the holidays at a Toronto Loblaws, one of the first stores to sell beer on shelves,

On Friday, Flynn bought a six-pack of Oakville-brewed Cameron’s Lager and Longo got a six-pack of Toronto brewed Steam Whistler Pilsner.

The clerk asked the MPP for ID at the checkout. “I love you,” laughed the politician.

Both Wynne and Flynn boasted the changes were the largest shakeup in beverage alcohol sales since prohibition ended in 1927.

“I think we’ve finally come to grips with the issues,” said Flynn. Ontario has a Conservative past steeped in tradition therefore changes don’t come quickly.

In 1916 the province introduced prohibition. When it became legal again in 1927, it was controlled, with all spirits sold through the LCBO and beer sold through a group of brewers that eventually became The Beer Store.

Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador are the only other provinces that allow sales of beer in grocery stores. Unlike Ontario, they also allow their convenience stores to sell beer. British Columbia and Alberta only allow private stand-alone liquor stores.

Flynn was quick to stress that just because alcohol was in grocery stores now, parents don’t have to worry about their kids getting their hands on it.

“It’s more convenient, more accessible but as responsible as it’s ever been.”

Beer can only be paid for in specially designated “beer lanes,” with Smart Serve trained cashiers.

To relieve concerns of the increased availability of beer, Wynne revealed in December a provincial health official would be coming forward with an “alcohol strategy” this year.