Ottawa brewers have mixed concerns about possible LCBO strike

Bigger firms fear a massive loss in sales, while smaller brewers hope new people will seek out their product.
Steve Beauchesne
Beau's Brewery's Steve Beauchesne is not smiling about a possible LCBO strike.

Local brewers see an LCBO strike as either a major boon to their business or a major bust.

While no strike date has been set, LCBO employees gave their union a strong mandate for one earlier this week, with 93 per cent of workers endorsing a potential walkout.

Steve Beauchesne, co-founder of Beau’s brewery, said a strike would be devastating.

“It’s scary stuff for small brewers,” he said. “(The LCBO) probably represents about 35 to 40 per cent of our sales.” 

He said few customers are going to trek out to their brewery for a beer, grocery store sales are still small and, while Beer Stores carry Beau’s, 75 per cent of the locations still keep all their cases hidden in the back, inhibiting customers from browsing.

“Most of our customers don’t even realize you can buy our beer there,” he said. “The LCBO does a great job of displaying product.”

Josh McJannett, co-founder of Dominion City Brewing, which don’t sell into the LCBO, said his operation relies on restaurants and bars that carry the beer and on customers who come to the brewery.
 
“A shockingly healthy number of people come and do that every week,” he said.

McJannett said that, without the LCBO, there will still be plenty of beer on the market.

“There is a lot of really good beer being brewed in the national capital region right now,” he said. “There is no reason for people to fear that there will be a lack of good beer to drink.”

Beauchesne agrees that a strike could present an opportunity for some small brewers to attract new customers. But, he says, those that have invested substanially in retail distribution will have trouble.
 
“As soon as you’re selling into any amount of stores,” he said, “losing the LCBO is going to be devastating.”

This article originally appeared in Metro News.