In Ontario, liquor can be bought at government-run LCBO Stores, The Beer Store, and some (but not all) grocery stores. According to InstaBooze, an alcohol delivery service in Toronto, Alcohol can also be consumed at licensed bars and restaurants, including those with patios.
Bars and restaurants can legally serve drinks until 2 am, with the exception of certain special events (TIFF, Pride, NXNE, NYE). Here’s where you can get your booze.
1. The LCBO
The LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) is the provincial liquor retailer for the Canadian province of Ontario. It operates more than 660 retail stores and an online store and is the sole wholesaler of grocery outlets, the Beer Store, licensed bars and restaurants, and duty-free stores. It is a Crown corporation, and its profits are transferred to the provincial government to support a variety of priority programs for the citizens of Ontario. It is overseen by a Board of Directors appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council, with the chair being a person designated by the Governor in Council.
Originally established in 1927, the LCBO was a direct result of prohibition ending in the province. The LCBO’s early outlets were designed to feel like prisons, and the clerks were stationed behind wire grills, requiring new customers to be vetted for morality before they could purchase any alcohol. The original system of social sorting resulted in routine denials to factions of society that were arbitrarily deemed unworthy, such as certain ethnic groups and low-income populations.
Today the LCBO has a more streamlined operation, although it still has many of the same limitations. The organization’s monopoly on alcohol sales ensures that its prices remain high and its selection is limited. This makes it a challenging environment for smaller Canadian brands, who are often forced to either pay hefty markups to the LCBO or go out of business due to these pricing structures.
Despite its size and scope, the LCBO is not without critics. Some people argue that the organization is not accountable to anyone, including the public, and that its profits are a form of taxation that could be put toward better services for the population. Its supporters point out that the LCBO is the only entity capable of controlling alcohol consumption in a way that’s ethically responsible and that it transfers its annual dividend to the province for important priorities.
Regardless of what you think about the LCBO, there is no denying that it is a massive, profitable, and well-run organization. The LCBO’s staff is highly skilled and dedicated, and the fact that the organization is unionized means that employees earn decent wages and benefits.
2. The Beer Store
As the name suggests, The Beer Store is Ontario’s primary retailer of beer. Unlike LCBO, which serves as the primary importer for many imported brands, The Beer Store is an independent, privately owned company that does not receive government funding. The Beer Store also does not operate any of its own stores but rather distributes products to a network of private retailers, including beer bars and restaurants.
The Beer Store is committed to promoting and supporting the development of local breweries in Ontario. In fact, about 1-in-5 brands sold in the store are from small Ontario breweries. They are also one of the greenest retailers in the world, having collected more than 2.5 billion beer bottles since 2005 (with a 97 percent return rate).
In addition to their commitment to supporting local breweries, The Beer Store employs about 7,000 hard-working Ontarians with well-paying full and part-time jobs. The Beer Store is also a leader in the use of innovative packaging, including glass and aluminum bottle alternatives that are both eco-friendly and convenient.
The beer selection is excellent at this location, and the staff is generally above average. However, on a Friday or Saturday evening, you will likely have to wait in line to place your order and pay. It seems they use one register to sell and another to handle returns which causes a lot of congestion in the checkout area. This is especially the case if you pick up multiple beer cases at once.
As one of the most multicultural cities in North America, Toronto has a unique drinking culture influenced by its northern climate and close proximity to the US border. As a result, people here tend to drink much later than in the South, and last call is usually at 2 am.
That being said, we hope The Beer Store will work with the CSRA to explore flexible urban design solutions that better fit the downtown context in which they are located. They must be willing to collaborate if they are truly interested in listening to the needs of their immediate community.
3. The Wine Shop
The Wine Shop is a small wine shop on Dundas West in the heart of Toronto’s core, near Yonge Street. It carries many premium VQA wines and offers personalized customer service. They also have a good selection of craft beer and spirits. The owners, who have been in the business for more than a decade, recently made the move to open the store full-time and are now expanding their product lineup. This includes a new range of wines, including more affordable options for those looking to try a few different bottles without spending a lot.
The shop is owned by self-titled “grape witches” Nicole Campbell and Krysta Oben, who have a mini-wine empire in the city, hosting wine pop-ups, running a covetable wine club, and opening their store in Little Portugal (just weeks before the pandemic hit). It’s the de facto clubhouse for many west-enders who spend sunny days parked on the patio drinking glasses of wine from cult producers and snacking on cheese, pepperettes, and buttered sourdough.
A large portion of their business comes from catering events, and they take pride in the fact that they’ve been able to help small and medium-sized businesses in Toronto grow their businesses. They’re a family-run company with a strong focus on customer satisfaction and offer a wide variety of products to meet everyone’s needs.
Currently, up to 450 grocery stores across Ontario can sell alcohol (including beer and cider), with about 225 of those offering wine. You can also purchase alcohol at more than 675 LCBO stores and 395 LCBO Convenience Outlets.
In addition to the usual assortment of wine, The Wine Shop has a wide selection of sparkling wine, champagne, and spirits like vodka, whiskey, rum, brandy, and tequila. It is worth noting that if you’re ordering online from The Wine Shop, you’ll need to provide proof of age to have the order shipped.
Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, but it still abides by some pretty strict puritanical liquor laws. Thankfully, they’re starting to loosen up a bit, and now you can drink at restaurants in the morning. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has announced that licensed restaurants will be able to start serving alcohol at 7 a.m. for the duration of the FIFA World Cup to align with the early games being played in Qatar. This will run until the final on Dec 18.
4. Dial a Bottle
The best place to buy alcohol in Toronto after 2 am is probably at one of our city’s many bars and restaurants. The cocktail culture here is a little behind NYC and LA, but it’s growing fast, and some of the most creative cocktails can be found in the heart of our biggest city.
Toronto’s arcane liquor laws often mean that it is only possible to purchase certain types of alcohol at specific places, such as spirits in LCBO stores, wine at the Wine Shop, and beer at The Beer Store and some grocery stores (but not all). This can sometimes make finding rare drinks difficult for those looking to stock up before a night out, but this is changing quickly with new legislation and innovative business models coming out all the time.
Another option for buying alcohol after 2 am is Dial a Bottle, an online LCBO delivery service that allows customers to order their favorite drinks, including beer, wine, and liquor, from the comfort of their home or office. The service has been a huge success and is being used to reach a new audience of people who wouldn’t normally use the LCBO. The app has an easy-to-use product catalog and features a secure add-to-cart system, payment options, and delivery management.
It also offers a number of convenience store items such as cigarettes, snacks, and pop for the ultimate drinkers’ convenience. This is helping to grow the brand and increase customer loyalty.
As a result of all this growth, the company has now expanded to offer alcohol home delivery services throughout the entire province of Ontario. It’s a great way to save time and get the party started without having to leave the house.
As a bonus, the company also makes it easier for businesses to serve drinks before last call. Licensed premises will now be allowed to serve alcohol until 2 am instead of the usual 1:45 am. This will help allow clubs and bars to remain open longer, which is great for the local economy. It will also stop them from having to hire a karaoke machine for after-hours parties and events to get the crowds moving.