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Small business owners see increased demand during LCBO strike

As the LCBO strike continues, small business owners who sell alcohol are seeing an influx of new customers.

However, with limited stock available, it’s hard for them to keep popular items on the shelf.

Karen McGlynn drove nearly 30 minutes from Kanata to Arnprior, Ont. to get alcohol.

“It’s affecting me. I mean, we’ve got a couple of parties to go to and the strike happens, and then, it’s like, oh, shoot,” said McGlynn.

She couldn’t find what she needed close to home due to the LCBO strike.

“Closest would have been Innisville, past Carleton Place. And they didn’t get any stock for gin, and gin was what I wanted for the weekend,” she said.

At Al’s Corner Store in Arnprior, they have a contract with the LCBO. Some small, independent convenience stores operate as LCBO convenience outlets. These stores are authorized by the LCBO to sell a selection of LCBO products.

“As you can see, we’re running out of a lot of things,” said Cheryl Mills, co-owner of Al’s Corner Store.

But with the LCBO strike, comes challenges for this small family-owned business.

“Twisted Tea, for example, which was going out of here by the case. We had a lot of it. We have now nothing. I can’t get that now. It’s not on my list of 100 products,” Mills said.

Some of their most popular items are unavailable due to the strike, making it hard to keep up with the increase in customers looking for specific drinks.

On Wednesday, Premier Doug Ford spoke about his disappointment in the strike and said the province is still moving forward with their plan to allow grocery stores to sell ready-to-drink beverages alongside their current selection of beer and wine starting August 1.

“This strike should have never, ever happened. It should have never happened. We could have worked things out and everyone would be happy. So let’s get back to the table. I’m asking. Please go back to the table with LCBO,” said Ford.

While the LCBO keeps its doors closed, many new customers are finding placed like Al’s Corner Store as the alternative.

“We’re getting a lot of new customers, a lot of out-of-town customers calling to see if we have product, and coming. The business has increased quite a bit. It’s really been good for us because it’s customer awareness. Now that there is an alternative than going to the LCBO,” said Alan Mills, co-owner of Al’s Corner Store.

“I normally go to the LCBO,” said shopper Bob Arbour.

“I didn’t know how much, or whether these guys were selling anything or not. So, I just asked my neighborhood people, and they said yes, they are. So here I am,” said shopper Tammy Rossignol.

But owners Cheryl and Alan Mills are worried the increase in business might not last long if they can’t keep their shelves stocked. Just placing their order online has become a challenge.

“Before the strike, the stuff was disappearing out of my cart as I was trying to check out. Like, I could barely put a minimum order together because the product was so low,” said Cheryl Mills.

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