St. John's Wort Beery Musings And Amusing Beers

In Which My Local LCBO Closes Down

Sunday, about the time that the Blue Jays were demonstrating how not to score any runs, I went to the fridge to get a beer. It seemed to me that there was very little point in yelling at Juan Rivera for being a goldbricking layabout while completely sober. It’s sort of inexplicable behavior. If someone were to walk in and see you making insulting gestures towards a baseball game on the screen, the only way that could be acceptable is if you had had a beer.

The only problem was that there wasn’t any beer. Not even any reviewing beer. I’m not much of a multitasker, but I can definitely make notes on a beer while shaking my fist at Juan “The Human Brick” Rivera. They don’t even get conflated.

For instance: Golden/straw colour. Light body. Should get on base by stepping in front of pitches. No noticeable hop finish.

I thought to myself, “I’ll just pop down to the LCBO and…”

I knew that there was something important that I was forgetting. When I stood up and looked out my window, I saw that the parking lot at the Yonge and Davisville LCBO was empty. The store actually shut down on the 16th.

I knew that already. Of course I did. I had been in there to see if they had gotten anything new a week before and the only beer that they had in the place were those very expensive bottles that were brought in as specialty items. Little Korkny. Infinium. Ola Dubh 30. (I can’t figure out why the 40 should have sold out when the 30 was the better value.) They sat at the back in a shelving unit that had once been refrigerated, but which at this point had been turned off and now looked shabby in an unlit way; like the bottles had been relegated to the island of misfit beers.

It turns out that there’s a force more powerful than the LCBO: Condo developers.

For a number of years, I was lucky enough to live close enough to an LCBO to be able to pop out and get a beer if I felt like one. People coming over? Off you pop. I can literally look out the window and see the sign on the store without getting out of the chair I’m currently sitting in.

Of course, a new LCBO has opened up on Yonge street at Manor road. This can’t be considered any great distance. It’s something of a neighbourhood beautification project, replacing as it does the Mystique Lounge. I had never been inside the Mystique Lounge, but having walked by it late at night on the way back from a friend’s house, I can tell you its sidewalk was the place you were most likely to see a fistfight in midtown Toronto.

Maybe it’s because they just opened, but the beer selection is nothing to write home about. The most upscale thing on offer was Innis and Gunn original. The standees were full of cases of Old Milwaukee. It was encouraging to see that they had already sold out of Mill Street Tankhouse, but overall, it was unimpressive. The store is slightly less than half the size of the old Davisville location.

This means that for the first time in a very long time, I’m going to have to think ahead. The next closest location is Summerhill, which is within walking distance (downhill) but probably not within walking back distance (uphill carrying enough beer to last a couple of weeks). This is not a bad thing. The ambiance is nicer there, and there’ll be some exercise. I may be forced to actually keep a small cellar. The record for cellaring in my apartment is four months for a bottle of Dark Lord 2010.

I finally see what people are talking about when they claim that they’d like to see beer sold in convenience and grocery stores. The problem, I guess, is that it wouldn’t necessarily solve anything, since the selection would probably be a series of macro and value brands in most locations. Anything that results in the likelihood of purchasing beer of lower quality because of convenience is almost certainly counterproductive for craft beer enthusiasts.

Plus, think about the lead time on something like that. You’d have to train all of the employees. You’d have to find the space to open a store like that. There would be renovations. Independent stores would be unable to operate using economies of scale like the government employs. Plus, think of the successful depanneurs in Montreal like Rahman. So much inventory that you feel like you’re going to knock a case over if you sneeze. It would be a giant, expensive mess for a while at opening.

I’m not saying it’s not worth doing, but the number of obstacles is daunting. Also, the societal impact is unlikely to be as pronounced as people claim.

In the meantime, I have produced a list of beverages that it will be acceptable to drink while saying increasingly negative things about Juan Rivera should his batting average fall below .100 this evening:

Coffee, Tea, Water, Lemonade, Horchata, Cognac (only if your criticisms are particularly highbrow: “Oh, I rather say, Reginald. Perhaps he would be better suited to Whist.”) Milk and, of course, Diet Mr. Pibb.

It’s important to have a contingency plan.

4 Thoughts on “In Which My Local LCBO Closes Down

  1. Jordan,
    The much better option would be the rise of a Wine Rack equivalent for beer. “The Stillage”. Something that would be located in a grocery store, or Walmart, or *gasp* a stand-alone location. The working model (Wine Rack) already puts a big emphasis on Ontario products. I agree that if you could get booze in a convenience store, it would likely be macro-junk. I would rather see bars able to do what’s known as “off license” sales in the UK. You can walk in and buy bottles or cans of beer. Or even better, get your growler filled from the tap of your choice. It would be magic.

    • Kel Varnsen on April 19, 2011 at 1:10 pm said:

      I really think Off-Sales would be the best way to improve the beer availability in Ontario. It would mean there would be more locations selling beer. It would give private businesses the choice as to which beer they sell and best of all people wouldn’t freak out with the old “won’t someone think of the children” since bars already know how to check ID and sell alcohol. True most barse would probably only sell 6 packs of Canadian or maybe Heiniken, but some bars would probably love the chance to be able to sell interesting stuff that they import or get from breweries.

  2. This is one of the problems I have been thinking over for quite a while now. Fire Juan Rivera. Oh wait, that was the other problem.
    Beer in the corner store is only great for the swillers. As you mentioned it would almost certainly result in your local Macs Milk filled with Blue, Canadian, and any buck a bottle beer the retailer could get cheap.
    The “Oh the poor children” crowd would weep in their cognac.
    What I don’t understand is why Molson, Labatt, and Sleeman should be allowed to own their own retail outlet while the Ontario Craft Brewers Association aren’t.
    Let them start their own off-site outlets and allow online beer sales. They could serve as a test outlet to convince the worriers that sales could be handled in a responsible manner and that it is a good business prospectus.
    The online sales means that people in rural Ontario (me) could have good beer shipped to me. I am willing to pay for the shipping if only the government would let me.

    This is an election year in Ontario. A good time to yell and scream a bit.

  3. lister on April 21, 2011 at 3:36 pm said:

    Being a former resident of that area it surprises me that the Yonge & Davisville LCBO is making way for a condo. Too bad the LCBO replacing it is so small and it’s an odd location since the Yonge & Eglinton LCBO is close by. At least the Y&E LCBO has been getting a better beer supply. When I lived there it was dismal. Not surprisingly the quality picked up after I left. Please direct all thanks you’s and monetary donations my way for my help in that matter.

    There was a third option for your acquiring beer: a growler from Granite. Depending on which way you walk through the neighbourhood there would be no uphill climbing.

    We have a large-ish LCBO right next door which makes for very convenient fetching. In about 6-7 years it will go away for about a year and a half to make way for a condo and we’ll feel nostalgic for the convenience while trekking up to Chinatown or Queen’s Quay. Fortunately the LCBO will be returning to that new condo.

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