Alcohol

Last Call should be extended for all consumers, not just politicians

CONTACT:
Yaël Ossowski
Deputy Director
@YaelOss
[email protected]

Last Call should be extended for all consumers, not just politicians

Charlotte, NC – Yesterday it was reported that North Carolina Republicans have introduced a provision that would allow bars, clubs, and restaurants to stay open until 4 AM during the 2020 Republican National Convention.

Consumer Choice Center Deputy Director Yaël Ossowski responded to the news stating that extending the hours that facilities can serve alcohol shouldn’t just be a temporary measure for big city political conventions, but should instead be allowed statewide from here on out.

“What message are we sending about consumer choice if we only pass modern alcohol policies when a party comes to town,” asked Ossowski.

“Giving business owners the permanent option of staying open later to serve customers would provide the exact same economic benefits state legislators are touting about temporarily giving business owners that option in August 2020 during the RNC.

“Extending the time for ‘Last Call’ would be up to the individual businesses, and would be a huge boon for modernization of our state’s alcohol policy. Not only would clubs, bars, and restaurants have more flexibility, but consumers would also have a bigger range of options to choose from, and that could finally provide an incentive to lawmakers to update our state’s antiquated alcohol laws.

“Bringing North Carolina into the 21st Century when it comes to alcohol policy should be a priority for state legislators, and that is something that should be embraced for all North Carolina residents, not just when the RNC comes to Charlotte,” said Ossowski.

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

OPINION: Craft Beer Law a Win for Consumer Choice, But We Need More Alcohol Reform

Consumer Choice Center Deputy Director Yaël Ossowski applauded the move but said more needs to be done for true alcohol reform in North Carolina.

“This new law will allow breweries to expand and ship more product across the state, giving North Carolina consumers greater access to their favorite craft brews. That’s a huge win for consumer choice,” said Ossowski.

“But we need to go further if we want true alcohol reform. There are bills in both the House and Senate that would green light liquor tastings onsite, finally allow people to purchase their alcohol online, and remove the cap on how much distillers are able to sell to consumers.

“Another big priority should be ending the state monopoly on liquor sales and the outdated ABC system, which raises costs for consumers, misallocates capital better used by private enterprise, and gives too much authority to politicians and administrators as economic planners rather than regulators.

“Bringing North Carolina into the 21st Century when it comes to alcohol policy should be a priority for state legislators, and the latest moves coming out of Raleigh are a welcome sign,” said Ossowski.

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

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More Toronto grocery stores will soon be carrying booze

David Clement, Toronto-based North American Affairs Manager of the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), said that the announcement is a step in the right direction.

“The move helps underserved regions, while maxing out the amount of grocery stores allowed under the Master Framework Agreement (MFA). It is positive to see these changes while the province undergoes the process of scrapping the MFA and allowing for alcohol sales in convenience stores,” Clement said.

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Two big victories for consumer choice and modernized alcohol policy

The warm months are delivering some great news when it comes to increased consumer choice and modernized alcohol policy across North America.

ONTARIO

The first success story comes from the Canadian province of Ontario, where Premier Doug Ford has announced the end of the province’s exclusive contract with The Beer Store, the beer monopoly.

When announcing the policy, Ontario Finance Minister Victor Fedeli quoted the words of Consumer Choice Center North American Affairs Manager David Clement, who has contributed to the debate to open up beer sales across the province.

This positive move comes on the same day the government announced it would be expanding alcohol sales in LCBO stores across the province, after which Clement says “consumers across the province would appreciate more access to alcoholic drinks over the summer months.

The Consumer Choice Center played a pivotal role is shaping the policy debate in favor of modernized alcohol policy and consumer choice, and will continue to do so across the country.

“Today’s alcohol announcement is a step in the right direction,” said David Clement. “The move helps underserved regions, while maxing out the amount of grocery stores allowed under the Master Framework Agreement (MFA). It is positive to see these changes while the province undergoes the process of scrapping the MFA and allowing for alcohol sales in convenience stores.”

“We are hopeful that the announcement could increase access over the summer months, which would definitely be appreciated by consumers province-wide.” said Clement.

NORTH CAROLINA

Following the positive vibes from the Great White North, the state of North Carolina also had a major alcohol policy modernization pass.

Last Thursday Gov. Roy Cooper signed House Bill 363, the Craft Beer Distribution and Modernization Act. The law will allow craft brewers to self-distribute more than twice was allowed previously without a wholesaler.

That measure will allow breweries to expand and ship more product across the state, giving North Carolina consumers greater access to their favorite craft brews.

I have written about this topic for the Charlotte Observer (here and here) and been interviewed about it on the radio on the Joe Catenacci Show and the Chad Adams Show.

Much like above, there is still a lot that needs to be done to have a true modern alcohol policy in the Tar Heel State. Ending the state’s monopoly of ABC stores (that sell liquor) would be prime, and the next would be allowing distilleries to offer and sell their products on site and for delivery.

Regardless, these are two big victories for consumer choice and modernized alcohol policy, giving consumers more of a say, more choice, and better options!

More LCBO ‘agency stores’ to open

The latest move by the Ford government is being met with praise by the Consumer’s Choice Centre. Northern American Affairs Manager David Clement said this agreement signals the provincial government is going to take steps to increase consumer access and choice.

“This is a positive policy from our perspective,” said Clement. “If anyone’s like me [more access] is definitely appreciated because when you’re going up to the cottage or enjoying the outdoors … it will be appreciated from consumers across the province.”

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Almost 300 more Ontario stores to be allowed to sell alcohol, province says

David Clement, of the Consumer Choice Center, praised the expansion announced Thursday, saying consumers across the province would appreciate more access to alcoholic drinks over the summer months.

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Don’t blame Doug Ford for the costs of breaking unfair beer retailing contracts

Opinion: We should blame politicians who set up and maintained a system that has both inconvenienced and overcharged consumers for nearly a century.

A lot has changed in the last 92 years, but Ontario’s alcohol policy is one thing that has remained largely the same. Following the repeal of alcohol prohibition in 1927, the province granted Brewers Warehousing Co. (later Brewers Retail/The Beer Store) a monopoly over beer sales, to appease prohibitionists. Now Prohibition’s legacy lives on through The Beer Store’s near monopoly on beer sales today, and Ontario Premier Doug Ford is facing both political heat and legal threats by trying to challenge it.

If the Ford government follows its plan, beer and wine will be available in corner and big box stores by Christmas. Evidence suggests this policy will enhance consumer choice by expanding variety, increasing convenience, and lowering prices. Anindya Sen, an economist at the University of Waterloo, estimated that roughly $700 million in annual revenue earned by The Beer Store is incremental profit earned because of its monopoly status and ability to charge higher prices. Additionally, The Beer Store’s roots in Prohibition demonstrate that lack of access is a feature, not a bug, of the current retail system. This inconvenience may be why 54 per cent of Ontarians support allowing more privately owned stores to sell alcohol.

Modernizing alcohol sales is good public policy. While the LCBO’s earnings serve as a cash cow for the province, The Beer Store’s profits primarily go into the hands of large multinational brewers — Anheuser Busch-InBev, through its Labatt subsidiary; Colorado-based Molson-Coors; and Japan’s Sapporo, through its Sleeman subsidiary. Additionally, retail monopolies do little to promote social responsibility. As one of the authors’ research has shown, privatization of alcohol sales in Alberta was associated with a lower rate of impaired driving.

The precedent for this change exists, as convenience stores already sell lottery tickets and cigarettes, and face hefty penalties for selling to minors. Furthermore, alcohol liberalization isn’t only good for consumers, it’s good for the economy. By studying similar reforms in British Columbia, a new report from the Retail Council of Canada predicts that Ford’s proposed reforms would result in 9,100 new jobs and a $3.5-billion dollar increase in GDP.

We should not blame the Ford government for pursuing alcohol modernization

However, pursuing this change has had its own set of challenges. The Beer Store has threatened legal action against the province if it moves forward with its plan, citing its agreement with the previous Liberal government that limits the number and type of beer-retailing outlets in Ontario until 2025. Beer-industry insiders claim a breach of contract could cost Ontario up to $1 billion. While there are reasons to doubt this figure, including that estimates have rapidly grown from a previous estimate of $100 million in the short time since the story about the Ontario government’s plans broke, it has proven to be politically challenging for the Ford government. Critics have claimed that moving forward would be irresponsible due to the financial risk, with Ford being directly responsible for the potential losses.

There are two important lessons to take from these exorbitant claims. The first is that the figures that opponents of the plan are claiming are entirely unsubstantiated. They are simply the figures they claim. In order for them to have any legal weight whatsoever, they would have to be proven in court, which would require The Beer Store to open its books. Given the grandiose figures being tossed around, it is entirely possible that The Beer Store is bluffing in an attempt to maintain its privileged treatment. The second important lesson here is the price of cronyism overall. The government over-regulating and picking winners and losers in the market hurts consumers twice over. First through inflated prices and poor customer service, and again as taxpayers via legal challenges. Setting a precedent that the Ford government stands with consumers over special interests would clearly show that it stands for the people.

When it comes to placing blame, there is a lot to go around. We should blame the politicians who set up and maintained a retail system that has both inconvenienced and overcharged Ontario consumers for nearly a century. We should blame the previous government for attempting to tie the hands of subsequent leaders by signing the latest contract with The Beer Store. However, regardless of the outcome of the legal challenge, we should not blame the Ford government for pursuing alcohol modernization. While this move may be costly, it is necessary to right past wrongs and end Ontario’s Prohibition-era alcohol framework. Ford has lots to answer for, but not this.

Heather Bone is a research fellow at the Consumer Choice Center and an economics PhD student at the University of Toronto. David Clement is the North American affairs manager of the Consumer Choice Center.

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