As of June 30, the Foodland in Vankleek Hill is one of 76 groceries stores in Ontario authorized to sell alcohol. (Photo: Francis Tessier-Burns).

Bread, butter, and… beer? Foodland now selling alcohol

If you’ve stopped by the Foodland in Vankleek Hill recently, you might have noticed something new on the store shelves—beer, and lots of it.

“It’s definitely a surprise for a lot of people. Everyone has been very excited,” says Kelsey Parent, store manager at Foodland.

Since June 30, Foodland, along with 75 other grocery stores in Ontario, has been authorized to sell beer and cider to its customers. Sobey’s, Foodland’s parent company, applied for the permit earlier this year.

Parent hopes the newly authorized products will help draw more traffic to the store, while also providing more convenience for people who already shop there for their groceries.

“People won’t have to go to Hawkesbury or Quebec as often to get their beer anymore. We think we can be the one-stop shop for people in the community.”

Stocking up

Parent says Foodland wants to make their selection of beers and ciders as comprehensive as possible. To that end, an entire corner of the store has been dedicated to the new beverage offerings.

Among the brands currently available: staples such as Coors, Busch, and Miller Lite; craft beers like Muskoka Brewery, Great Lakes Brewery, and Whitewater Brewing Co., among many others. Naturally, there’s also an entire sub-section dedicated to local brewery, Beau’s, and its flagship Lug-Tread Lagered Ale.

Can’t find your favourite brand? Parent says Foodland is taking feedback, and can order items by customer request.

Unfortunately, wine lovers will not be able to find their drink of choice at the store, as Foodland did not apply for the separate permit to sell wine for this year. According to Parent, the store plans to apply for the wine permit for 2018.

Rules and regulations

Of course, the new authorization doesn’t come without some restrictions.

Foodland, and other grocery stores, are only allowed to sell products in six-packs and singles, during standard alcohol sale hours, and only in designated areas of the store. To compare, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) stores may sell in quantities up to 12 per pack, while The Beer Store retains the exclusive right to sell cases of 24.

Additionally, Foodland (as per policy prescribed by Sobey’s) requires all customers who purchase alcoholic products to provide proof of legal drinking age.

“Some people have been flattered by that policy—others, not as much,” Parent explains.

Distributing the drink

The 76 newly authorized stores join the 130 already permitted to sell beer and cider—70 of which may also sell wine.

According to ontario.ca, authorization has been allocated with the goal of ensuring fair competition and distribution, including independent and large grocers in regions across the province. Altogether, beer, cider, and wine are now available for sale in more than 450 Ontario grocery stores.