Some Ontario shoppers will get the option of buying liquor and beer inside their local grocery stores starting late next year, according to the province's finance minister.

The Liquor Control Board will set up "express" outlets inside 10 grocery stores over the next 18 months.

These outlets will co-exist with the Wine Rack business that currently exists in some grocery stores, but only sells wine. There are also LCBO outlets in some rural stores across the province.

The outlets will be about 3,000 square feet, only exist in larger grocery stores and they will be staffed by LCBO employees, according to LCBO spokeswoman Heather MacGregor.

More outlets in the future, minister says

Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said he expects the pilot project to be well received by consumers and it will then be expanded to other areas.

"The goal here is better consumer access," Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

"Ontarians are, generally speaking, very pleased with the system of (liquor) distribution, they just want more access, and we think this is the right way to go."

The LCBO will decide which communities and grocery stores will host its new outlets over the next year. It will also create new VQA boutiques for Ontario wines inside five of its own stores.

Duncan said setting up LCBO outlets in grocery stores is a better way to improve consumer access than the Progressive Conservatives' call to sell alcohol in corner stores, an idea he calls "bone-headed."

The Progressive Conservatives have said it's time to overhaul Ontario's antiquated liquor laws and allow more private sector sales, especially in convenience stores.

Duncan a 'bonehead-in-chief', PCs say

That bonehead description amused PC finance critic Peter Shurman.

"I take that as a compliment coming from the "bonehead-in-chief" of the Liberal Party, outgoing finance minister Dwight Duncan," Shurman told CP.

Duncan said the changes announced Monday were not in response to the Tories' plan, which he warned would mean less revenue for a government already facing a $14.4-billion deficit.

The finance minister said having LCBO outlets in grocery stores will help promote Ontario wines and craft beers, which he doubts corner stores would stock if they were allowed to sell alcohol.

The Tories accused the Liberals of "throwing darts at a wall" to release a policy on New Year's Eve so the government could "change the channel" from its ongoing dispute with teachers over legislation that freezes their wages for two years.

With files from The Canadian Press