ANNOUNCEMENT (The short version): Nita Beer Company Inc. is excited to launch NITANOTHERBEER.COM, the online presence to access GREAT ONTARIO BEER, include Nita. Right now, Nita has two multi-brewer six packs available. In October, this online store will be where Ontario beer fans can order Nita’s Beer Calendar to enjoy a unique beer for every day between Dec 1 and 24. Nita Beer Company Inc. loves to celebrate great Ontario beer, no matter who makes it.
(The long version): A couple of weeks ago, Nita got a call from an AGCO inspector indicating the nitabeer.com was offside of Ontario liquor laws. The AGCO considered nitabeer.com an extension of Nita Beer Company’s retail store. Under the liquor license act a manufacturer’s retail store is not allowed to sell beer from other manufacturers. This came as a surprise to Nita as anyone that knows Bridget knows that she does extensive research to ensure compliance with Nita Beer Company Inc.’s obligations. In 2018, while Nita was getting prepared for the first Beer Calendar and prior to getting a manufacturers representative license, Bridget sent several emails to AGCO representatives and had phone conversations to discuss the plan. In July 2018, Nita completed the application and in September 2018, the AGCO issued Nita Beer Company Inc. a license to represent a manufacturer.
The team spent enormous effort to ensure that any non-Nita product bought on nitabeer.com could not picked up in-store on nitabeer.com. Any customer that requested a pick-up received a follow-up that unfortunately that contravened liquor laws. Now based on “information” received by the AGCO, the AGCO has indicated that nitabeer.com is not eligible to sell products of other manufacturers regardless of pick-up or delivery options as it is an extension of Nita’s retail store. Moment of panic – Nita loves our program that connects us to so many great brewers in Ontario, how could we keep this going? We have an existing channel through The Beer Store but unfortunately for The Beer Calendar, the retail only method of sale does not allow us to anticipate sales levels and coordinate activities with all of our brewery partners in a timely way.
So move into “How can we …” mode. Nita’s approach to business has never been defined by obstacles so brainstorming led us to a few options. 1) Contract brewing: Could we get our brewery partners to contract brew for us and then figure out labelling etc. to provide some fun ways to show who brewed what. AGCO said no as only manufacturer’s with two retail locations can sell up to 50% volume through it’s retail store. 2) Tied House License: Amendments to liquor laws now allow for beer to be picked up from Liquor Sales Licensees as long as the primary purpose is for consumption on-site. Nita is looking into this option as Tied House Licenses have other obligations that we need to figure out before we pull the trigger on this. As well, liquor cannot be shipped by a delivery service other than the Tied House license holder. Is your mind spinning yet? Welcome to Ontario liquor laws. 3) Another website: Easy but not easy as Nita strives for efficiency in our operations. It’s very competitive out there for brewers and COVID is straining our operations. Every $ can make a difference.
So when life gives you lemons, make beer or … make a ‘nother beer! Thanks to the power of @shopify and @weebly, nitanotherbeer.com is born! nitanotherbeer.com is the online presence for the Nita Beer Company Inc.’s License to Represent a Manufacturer (LRM1066222). Stay tuned for more details in the future.
Just for reference, there are no mentions of websites being an extension a company’s retail store in liquor laws or AGCO’s published material. There is definitely need to modernize the liquor laws of Ontario as well as AGCO’s interpretations to provide clarity to businesses. The Do's and Don'ts of alcohol sales in Ontario are mind boggling!