Ontario Premier Doug Ford is not backing down on his plan to expand alcohol sales in the province, including making ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages available in more retail spaces, despite the ongoing LCBO strike.

“Let me be very clear. It’s done. It’s gone. That ship has sailed across Lake Ontario,” Ford said when asked if he would reverse course on allowing RTD beverages such as coolers and seltzers to be sold in convenience stores and grocery stores.

The union representing 9,000 striking LCBO workers has argued the provincial liquor store should have the exclusive right to sell pre-mixed drinks and has cited the government policy as one of its key reasons for walking off the job.

The Ontario Public Sector Employees’ Union (OPSEU) contends that the government is jeopardizing the $2.5 billion in public revenue by introducing thousands of private retailers into the alcohol distribution network.

LCBO workers went on strike on July 5, shuttering hundreds of LCBO stores across the province.

Click to play video: 'Ford promotes LCBO alternatives amid strike: ‘Still plenty of options’'

According to the Ford government’s plan to expand alcohol sales, Ontarians will be able to buy products like coolers and other ready-to-drink beverages at the 450 grocery stores currently licensed to sell beer, cider and wine starting on Aug. 1, right before the Civic Holiday long weekend.


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After Sept. 5, all eligible convenience stores will be able to sell beer, cider, wine and ready-to-drink beverages. After Oct. 31, all eligible big-box stores will be able to sell those same beverages, including in large pack sizes, the government added.

“As we implement our plan to deliver more choice and convenience, the LCBO will continue to play a critical role in the new marketplace as exclusive wholesaler, as a key distributor with an unrivalled retail footprint,” Ford said. “And I want to be clear the LCBO will remain a public asset.”

“And you can’t compare a cooler to a bottle of vodka or a bottle of whiskey,” he added as the LCBO will remain the exclusive holder for hard liquor.

On Friday, the government released LCBO sales figures claiming that ready-to-drink products — the wider sale of which is the key sticking point at the bargaining table — make up 9.1 per cent of all sales at provincial liquor stores.

When asked by a reporter if the video of Ford posted to social media showing a government-made interactive map for where Ontarians can buy alcohol was to undermine the LCBO strike, he said “that video was made for us to show people where they can go.”

“It really states, all the more reason, why we need places like Cool Beer and, small breweries and small wineries right across this great province,” Ford said.

If a deal is not reached by July 19, the LCBO said just 32 stores across Ontario will open for limited hours on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

— With files from Global News’ Isaac Callan & Colin D’Mello

Click to play video: 'LCBO stores closed as Ontario-wide strike begins'