Toronto brewery asks consumers to return empties as Beer Store expands return service

TORONTO — A Toronto brewery is appealing to consumers to return their empty bottles, as the Beer Store says a growing number of its establishments are accepting returns.

Steam Whistle Brewery says restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a drop in bottle returns, leaving it with a potential shortage as sales are expected to increase for spring and summer.

Tim McLaughlin, the company’s vice president of marketing, said there could be “continued shortages” of Steam Whistle beer in the coming months unless it’s able to salvage and reuse. more empty bottles.

He says the company has used up an entire year of new bottles to make up for the lack of returns, and it will take months for a new order to be delivered.

Bottles returned to the Beer Store or the brewery itself, he says, can be used again within days.

The Beer Store temporarily stopped accepting cans and empty bottles in March to adapt to new health and safety measures imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but has since allowed returns to resume in the most places.

It initially allowed returns at 71 locations, then around 200, with physical distancing guidelines in place and limits on how much each customer could bring in at a time.

Earlier this week, the company announced that more than 300 of its approximately 450 stores – or around 75% – now offer the service.

Jeff Wilcox, the Beer Store’s health and safety manager, said there was some pressure on early stores to accept empties, but that has eased as new locations have opened.

“There were places, early in the morning, where people lined up,” he said. “So we introduced a security guard, we introduced more enhanced crowd control.”

He said the company plans to have all of its stores back in operation next month.

Steam Whistle’s McLaughlin says that while the feedback system is up and running again, it has yet to catch up with the March gap.

“We feel like there are a lot of people with a pile of crates in their garages,” he said.

“We want to let them know, #1, that they’re needed and #2, that we’re now in a position where it’s safe to return those bottles.”

Meanwhile, the LCBO announced that it is expanding its store hours at 360 stores starting today. Some stores will now be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, he said.

All locations will continue to close on Mondays.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 14, 2020.