Sudbury

LCBO considers selling alcohol in convenience stores in 50 small northern Ontario towns

The LCBO is looking at selling beer and wine in convenience stores in 50 communities in the northern Ontario. But there's a good chance you haven't heard of many of them.

Deadline to apply is Oct. 8, province hopes to have 200 stores across Ontario open in the spring

Among the 300 communities where the province wants to try out selling alcohol in convenience stores are 50 small towns in northern Ontario., some with only a few dozen people. (Fred Prouser/Reuters)

Patricia Malec is one of the 40 people who live in Sultan, a former logging town deep in the northern Ontario bush, about an hour's drive from Chapleau.

She runs the only business — a bait shop, that also sells chocolate bars and chips.

Malec is surprised to see the LCBO interested in selling beer and wine in Sultan, because she isn't.

"I just can't see it being viable to put one here," she says.

"I did think about it at one time, but it's probably more of an inconvenience than a convenience. Most people drive to Sudbury or Chapleau or Timmins to get their groceries and get everything they need there."

Malec, who says there once was an LCBO outlet in Sultan before her store opened in 1998, is also surprised Ontario government officials know where Sultan is. 

"I wouldn't think so, because I'm surprised we're on the map," she says. 

Many of the 50 communities in northern Ontario that the province is looking at including in its first batch of convenience store liquor outlets are tiny.

Some are just a cluster of a few houses without even a town sign or an existing convenience store, while others have a few hundred people and others are popular stops for tourists visiting the north. 

Two are First Nations, which would be the first LCBO outlets on reserve land.

Others are just a short drive from an existing liquor store.

A place called Trout Mills is on the list, an old name for a part of the City of North Bay on the shores of Trout Lake. 

Lakeview Grocery owner Deepak Mondal has never heard anyone call it Trout Mills.

But he would like to see booze in his store.

In the past he applied for an LCBO agency licence, which you find in some corner and grocery stores in small northern towns that are certain distance away from an existing liquor store.

But Mondal was refused because his store is just 7 km away from an LCBO in North Bay.

Still, he thinks he would do a good business in booze if allowed to sell it. 

"People are lazy, you know," Mondal says. He has owned the corner store and gas bar for seven years. 

"It's the same price, so why are they driving there?"

The LCBO says the some 300 Ontario communities on the list were "selected to increase convenience and choice in communities that may not otherwise have convenient access to an LCBO retail store or outlet."

Applications for the new convenient liquor stores are due by Oct. 8. The LCBO hopes to have 200 corner stores across the province selling beer and wine by the spring. 

About the Author

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca

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