The LCBO has denied a report Monday it is thinking of selling off the more than 200 stores it owns across Ontario and leasing them instead.
"LCBO only sells existing board-owned stores when we replace them with new and larger stores in higher-traffic retail locations," said spokesperson Christine Bujold.
The board was reacting to questions asked by Ontario Progressive Conservative finance critic Vic Fedeli Monday morning at Queen's Park.
In a statement released Monday, the LCBO acknowledged it posted a "Request for Proposal" online for "as needed" real estate brokerage services to help it to manage future transactions such as leases, rentals and property sales, as part of its business plans.
It said it will issue an amendment to its proposal to ensure the request is clearer.
Currently, it owns 228 of its retail properties, while its remaining 426 store locations are leased. Since 2006, it said it has sold 31 of its retail locations, the majority of which have been replaced with newer and larger stores.
Fedeli revealed the request for proposal in question period at Queen's Park and said that it was put online the day before the provincial budget was disclosed last month.
"None of these details were in the budget," he said. "No details on which of the 250 locations, no details on how many of the thousands of jobs will be cut, no details on the financial impact this will have on the bottom line."
Finance Minister Charles Sousa told the legislature any change in the LCBO's store network would not reduce its presence.
"LCBO stores and the distribution network will continue with the same complement that it has now because it benefits all of Ontarians," he said.
"What may occur – be it a leased premise or owned premise – that would be up to the LCBO to determine the best value for taxpayer money," he said.
"There's no secret that this side of the House supports the LCBO, supports the work that they're doing and ... we are continuing to provide all the supports necessary for the LCBO to succeed."
The LCBO said Fedeli "misinterpreted" its request for proposal and it confirmed Sousa's statements. It said "in fact" it is investing in expanding the size and scope of its retail network to improve customer service.
Bujold said the request for proposal is "an efficiency measure to have one brokerage service to handle all LCBO store property real estate needs."
Previously, the LCBO obtained brokerage services through individual requests for quotations.
It said the proposal "will help ensure that LCBO has a single brokerage service it can access as needed going forward and represents a continuation of its standard business practices."