Ontario liquor retailer The Beer Store recently released what could be the apogee of their cringe-inducing struggle to maintain their provincial lock on alcohol sales.
While the chain is privately owned, almost entirely by foreign companies, an Angus Reid Poll last year showed that only 13 per cent of Ontarians were aware of that fact. Not content to coast on its reputation as a supposed public utility, The Beer Store is now trying its luck masquerading as a concerned citizens’ group, with its website Ontariobeerfacts.ca, and a commercial aimed at scaring the wits out of parents.
In the ad, three teenage males approach the counter of a convenience store with a case of beer and a bottle of bourbon. The middle-aged clerk, even more enthusiastic than the teens about underage drinking, creepily refers to them as “boys” throughout the transaction, before letting them go without asking for ID. “Have fun tonight, boys!” he says, with a devilish smile.
As they leave, booze in hand, in what seems like a very special episode of “Diff’rent Strokes,” we hear an ominous organ stab. “Alcohol in our convenience stores?” a distant voice poses. “It’s just not right for our kids.” As the camera fades to black, we can only assume that as the “boys” leave the store, they venture into a depraved and cruel world, where cats sleep with dogs, and The Beer Store doesn’t enjoy a monopoly
Both the website and the ad are part of a campaign to push back talk of looser liquor laws in Ontario. Reaction to the campaign, and The Beer Store’s practices in general, has been soundly negative. The Toronto Star, the National Post, and The Globe and Mail, among others, have all run highly critical editorials. On Twitter, tags like #ONbeerfiction and #stopthemisinformation have been thrown at The Beer Store’s campaign, while others have greeted it with simple confusion. Asked one tweeter: “So, to be clear, this wasn’t produced by ‘This Hour has 22 Minutes?'”
By Drew McLachlan