Toronto

Running on empty: As Beer Store locations close, it's getting harder to recycle

It's getting easier to buy beer these days, but there are fewer places to bring your bottles back to score a refund.

The Beer Store is the only place in Toronto to return empties, but some locations are closing

At least four Beer Store locations have closed down in Toronto in the last year. (Garry Asselstine/CBC News)

Jeremy Campbell is finding out what's quickly becoming the case for many Torontonians who love their suds —essentially, it's getting easier to buy beer, but harder to return empties because so many The Beer Store locations are closing down.

Campbell, who lives in a two-bedroom condo in downtown Toronto, currently has about a 10-minute drive to get to his closest Beer Store on Dundas Street West near Ossington Avenue. That location could soon be shuttered too.

A redevelopment proposal is waiting for approval from the city, with potential buyers hoping to build an eight-storey residential building on the property.

"This is the second store that's closing down in my area," Campbell said.

Jeremy Campbell says he will consider recycling his empty bottles if The Beer Stores in his area continue to close down. (Garry Asselstine/CBC News)

In fact, there have been several other locations facing the same fate for a variety of reasons. In some cases, they are relocating, and in many other instances the closures are supposed to be only temporary.

"Both redeveloped and relocated stores help us modernize and better serve customers. We apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause," said Bill Walker, a spokesperson for The Beer Store, in a statement to CBC Toronto.

This Beer Store on Dundas Street West is up for redevelopment. (Garry Asselstine/CBC News)

Toronto locations on Danforth Avenue, Gerrard Street, Brock Avenue and the Queensway have all closed down in the last year, while other locations on River Street, Dundas Street and Queen Street East are all waiting for approval to be redeveloped.  

Brewers Retail would not provide the CBC News with exact numbers on store closures in Toronto.

Beer can also be purchased at LCBO locations. A number of grocery stores across the province have also started to sell it, as well. So far none have programs in place to provide refunds for empty bottles and cans.

A sign posted in the window of a former Beer Store on Gerrard Street East and Logan Avenue says it is permanently closed. (Garry Asselstine/CBC News. )

"There are still more than 100 stores in the GTA that are available to take back all beer, wine," Walker said. The Beer Store website lists more than 450 locations across the province; most of them accept returns.

In some areas, including downtown Toronto, many customers may have to travel several kilometres to get to one. That has people considering other alternatives, like putting their empties in the recycling bin.  

"Potentially, might just do that. I mean, it's only 10-cents a bottle," Campbell said.

Others are not as willing to eat the cost of the deposits they have to pay when buying alcoholic beverages.

"If you're selling the product, If you're selling beer, you're selling wine in stores, take it back," said Patrick Parent, who lives in Toronto's west end.

Patrick Parent carries his empties into The Beer Store on Dundas Street West. (Garry Asselstine/CBC News)

Parent is originally from Quebec, where it is also legal to sell beer in grocery stores. Those stores are also required to accept returns, making it much easier for the consumer.

"It's as easy as going to the street corner," Parent said.

Parent says many stores in Quebec have machines that will accept empty cans.

"It's like one of those coin counting machines," he said.

A notice of a proposed change to the zoning bylaw posted in front of the The Beer Store on Queen Street East near Leslie Street. (Garry Asselstine/CBC News)

CBC Toronto reached out to Finance Minister Vic Fedeli's office to ask why Ontario doesn't have a similar program in place with grocery stores that sell beer, but didn't get a direct response.

"Currently, there are about 770 return locations across the province. Empty containers can be returned to the Beer Store, LCBO agency stores, bulk return depots (Beer Store distribution centres), and empty bottle dealers operating in rural areas where a retail beer store does not exist," said Scott Blodgett, a spokesperson with Fedeli's office, in a written statement.

In addition to all of The Beer Store locations listed on its website, thebeerstore.ca, there is also a free app that helps customers find their nearest location.

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