Lakeport’s wait may be over

Lakeport Brewery President Bill Sharp says he has spent $60,000 in legal fees and other expenses over the past year in his struggle to gain admittance for his discount-priced beer in Quebec.But the head of the Hamilton-based brewer still has not...

Lakeport Brewery President Bill Sharp says he has spent $60,000 in legal fees and other expenses over the past year in his struggle to gain admittance for his discount-priced beer in Quebec.

But the head of the Hamilton-based brewer still has not been given his day in court.

However, the provincial board set up last July to regulate beer distribution in Quebec by out-of-province brewers says Sharp’s long wait will soon be over.

Economics

On July 14, La Regie des alcools, des courses et des jeux (last month, the name was changed from Regie des permis d’alcool du Quebec) held an informal preliminary meeting during which it told Lakeport what information the brewer would be required to supply at the official hearing.

Lakeport wishes to apply for a distribution licence that will enable it to ship its Ontario-brewed beer to Quebec supermarkets.

A spokesperson for La Regie says a ‘few tentative dates’ have been set for the hearing, but the final decision is still up in the air.

According to the spokesperson, La Regie has completed all the necessary pre-hearing paperwork, and now the hearing is being delayed only by the inability of various stakeholders to agree on a date.

Last summer, Lakeport struck an agreement with Quebec’s two leading supermarket chains, Provigo and Metro-Richelieu, to supply them with private label brew.

But Molson Breweries and Labatt Breweries of Canada complained to the Quebec government that if a Quebec retailer could form an unregulated agreement with a brewer, the brewer and retailer could monopolize beer sales on the retailer’s shelves.

The province’s solution was to introduce complex legislation – the full meaning of which has yet to be worked out by the courts – barring a brewer and a retailer from getting into bed together.

Lakeport’s answer, according to Sharpe, has been to set up a wholly owned distribution system identical to that used by Molson and Labatt.

‘We’ve matched them exactly,’ he says. ‘Now we’re just waiting for the hearing.’

Back-room manoeuvring

Sharpe credits back-room manoeuvring and creative foot-dragging by Molson and Labatt for the fact that he has now waited more than a year to receive a hearing before La Regie.

He says Molson and Labatt have taken advantage of Lakeport’s legal delays to launch discount brands of their own in Quebec.

‘They [Molson and Labatt] have been so good at doing their jobs, I have to compliment them,’ he says.

‘I’m sure that what they are doing, sure as I am sitting here, is they are planning to stall and stall for as long as they possibly can.’