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Liquor bottles sitting in a rack. Image: randy Thoms/Acadia Broadcasting

Distillers upset with LCBO

By Randy Thoms May 17, 2024 | 4:08 PM

Some of the top-selling liquor brands may disappear in Ontario.

Distillers are upset over a decision by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario to claw back payments made to them in 2023.

The LCBO claims it is because products sold in Quebec are cheaper than in Ontario.

The distillers place the blame on the LCBO that regulates pricing in Ontario.

The trade organization Spirits Canada says liquor boards are largely responsible for pricing in their provinces.

It notes Quebec’s system applies a requirement for the lowest retail price.

Spirits Canada says Ontario uses a mandatory minimum retail price for consumers that raises prices every year.

Under provincial legislation, the minimum price of alcohol in Ontario increases every year by law.

This year, the minimum price for a 750ml bottle of vodka is $31.15, compared to $22.25 in Quebec.

When it comes to liquors purchases by consumers, bars, restaurants, and others, Spirits Ontario says 75% of the price of every bottle is composed of taxes and a markup by the LCBO described as “generous.”

Lorena Patterson, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy at Spirits Canada, calls the LCBO’s move a tax grab.

“As the sole buyer and seller of all beverage alcohol for Ontario consumers, the LCBO’s conflicting policies are overcharging both suppliers and consumers again and again,” says Patterson.

“This could drive some of consumers’ favourite brands out of the market.”

Patterson says distillers are still reviewing their options.