April 15, 2021
The Government of Ontario has introduced several liquor reforms to support businesses as they work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and to offer consumers greater choice and convenience, now and into the future.
These reforms impact licensed liquor manufacturers and liquor delivery services.
Licensees and operators must follow public health measures enacted by the province and any additional restrictions in place in their municipality and they must continue to meet all other existing legislative and regulatory requirements. For information specific to the Ontario Government’s recent declaration of emergency, licensees and operators are encouraged to read the full list of restrictions.
Expansion of the Farmers’ Market Program (Beer)
The government’s 2021 Budget noted the sale of Ontario beer at farmers’ markets would be permitted in the upcoming season. Regulation 720 under the Liquor Licence Act has been amended to expand the product offerings that can be sold at farmers’ markets by allowing licensed manufacturers with an on-site brewery retail store to sell their eligible beer, as set out in Regulation 720, at Ontario farmers’ markets. Specifically, beer is eligible to be sold at a farmers’ market only if the full brewing process takes place at a production site in Ontario.
Before they can start selling their products at farmers’ markets, licensed manufacturers must be issued an authorization from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) for an occasional extension of their on-site brewery retail store within a farmers’ market and meet all prescribed conditions of their authorization.
Interested manufacturers may begin applying to the AGCO as of April 15, 2021, through the iAGCO portal. The AGCO will not charge a fee to issue authorizations for eligible manufacturers who wish to participate in the Farmers’ Market program.
Prior to this amendment, the Farmers’ Market program was available to eligible manufacturers with an on-site retail store that produce 100% Ontario wine (including cider made from 100% Ontario apples) and/or eligible spirits. This change reinforces the government’s commitment to supporting fairness across the liquor sector and creating opportunities for other Ontario manufacturers while providing additional choice and convenience for consumers, particularly amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Changes to allow for the continuation of non-exclusive relationships between Liquor Delivery Service licensees and certain retailers
In the summer of 2020, the government made changes to the province’s liquor laws to permit liquor delivery services to enter into non-exclusive agreements with The Beer Store or manufacturers who have retail stores to facilitate the purchase and delivery of liquor on behalf of a customer. These changes only applied to the purchase and delivery of liquor before July 1, 2021.
Effective today, the government has removed the date of July 1, 2021 from Regulations 718 and 720 under the Liquor Licence Act to allow agreements between liquor delivery services and certain retailers and manufacturers to continue beyond that date. This means there no longer is an end date to permitting agreements between liquor delivery services and The Beer Store or manufacturers with retail stores.
As a reminder, these agreements may include, for example, the listing of products on the liquor delivery service’s website or app and cannot restrict a liquor delivery service or manufacturer from entering into further agreements.
Licence holders should review the amendments to ensure that they are in compliance with all legislative and regulatory requirements. Links to electronic versions of the Liquor Licence Act and its regulations are available on the AGCO’s Acts and Regulations page. Licensees must also ensure that any individuals involved in the sale or delivery of liquor have completed Smart Serve training.
In response to the rapid increase in COVID-19 transmission, the Ontario Government declared a third provincial emergency and issued a province-wide stay-at-home order, effective on April 8, 2021. To help licensees understand the implications of these new measures, the AGCO is highlighting relevant information for each sector for ease of reference.
AGCO Customer Service
Via the iAGCO online portal
Or Telephone: 416-326-8700
Toll free in Ontario: 1-800-522-2876