WHEN I FIRST saw the petition to put beer and wine in convenience stores, I reached for the pen like my life depended on it. My signature appeared in the little white box in a flash and I started telling all of my friends about how I finally won’t have to cross booze run bridge into Hull to get cheap beer. But then I gave the issue a second sober thought.
On one hand, I’m a beer snob who likes to have a cold bottle within reach at all times. Putting beer in corner stores would make my life a touch more convenient and, most likely, cheaper. But is having to walk five minutes less for a bottle of something alcoholic really that beneficial? After some pondering, I realized that I have a bone to pick with this petition.
Hull doesn’t have the greatest reputation. Aside from the classy casino just off the highway, streets are dirty and seeing a drunk pedestrian in the middle of the day is no rarity. I don’t want Ottawa’s downtown core to have the same reputation. And the problems don’t stop there.
One of the reasons why the sale of alcohol is monopolized in Ontario is the high level of regulation. Although the Ontario Convenience Stores Association conducted a study that found they ID customers more often, can the study really be trusted? Regulation of alcohol is different from that of cigarettes and lottery tickets. Alcohol is a mind-clouding substance that, in the short term, can do a lot more harm than smoking too much tobacco or scratching too many lottery tickets.
The other issue is whether convenience store owners and employees can handle the responsibilities and dangers associated with selling booze. Namely, would store owners refuse to sell alcohol to already impaired customers like LCBO and the Beer Store do? Often small businesses are struggling to get by and an extra $20 from a customer is unlikely to be turned down. Though the convenience sector is likely to increase its profits, it may not be worth it.
Robberies are common in convenience stores, already putting workers at risk. If alcohol becomes more accessible, crimes under the influence could become widespread. We all know how hard it is to be responsible for your actions when you’re hammered. I doubt a robber would stop to think rationally about what he or she was doing if a situation got out of hand.
Putting wine and beer in convenience stores seemed like a great idea at first, but I want to withdraw my signature. I’d rather walk a few minutes extra than suffer the consequences of someone’s bad drunken decisions.