TORONTO — Buck a beer went into effect in Ontario on Monday, but only a handful of brewers have embraced the new, lower minimum price.
The policy lowers the minimum price of a bottle or can of beer to $1 from $1.25. Brewers are not required to charge less and the minimum price doesn’t apply to draft beer, nor does it include the bottle deposit.
The Progressive Conservative government has said the policy would see more competition in the beer market without affecting the province’s revenues from beer and wine taxes, which brought in roughly $589 million in 2016-2017.
Businesses will be offered prime spots in Liquor Control Board of Ontario stores or advertising in the store magazine’s inserts, among other possible incentives for selling their beer for $1.
Premier Doug Ford, who had promised buck a beer during the spring election campaign, announced the policy earlier this month, calling it a “win-win.”
Two breweries, Cool Brewery in Toronto and Barley Days Brewery in Picton, Ont., have said they will offer lower-priced brews while Loblaws has said its President’s Choice beer will be available for one dollar a bottle for a limited time.
The founder of Cool Brewery, which Ford was set to visit Monday to mark buck a beer going into effect, said the company will offer four-packs for $4 ahead of the Labour Day but noted that getting more lower-priced product on shelves quickly will be a challenge.
“It will take us a few weeks to build up the inventory to expand to more LCBO and Beer Stores across the province,” Bobby Crecouzos said in a statement.
A number of craft brewers have said they won’t be implementing buck a beer because they can’t afford to participate without sacrificing the quality of their product.
Ontario previously had buck-a-bottle beer but the then-Liberal government quietly hiked the minimum price in 2008, citing its “social responsibility” mandate.
In its heyday, buck a beer was a successful marketing campaign and seized a significant share of the market, said Scott Simmons, president of Ontario Craft Brewers, who was an executive at The Beer Store at the time.
But the costs of making beer have gone up, as have the provincial and federal taxes, making it less feasible for brewers to sell their product at the $1 minimum price now, he said shortly after Ford announced the policy.
Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press