Whatever happened to …

… liquor orders?

Thanks, Ramona Meharg for this inspiration from Facebook this morning.

There was a time in Ontario when you had to buy alcohol sight unseen!

I remember this so well. The LCBO store and the Brewer’s Retail were across the road from each other in our town.

The Brewer’s Retail did have bottles of beer on the shelves so that you could see what they looked like. You still had to approach a seller to place your order on one side of the room and your case came rolling out the other side.

At the LCBO, there were stations with the products listed like above. You’d fill out a card and hand it to the seller who would do in the back to get it for you. The back was always this mysterious place that you might catch a glimpse of through the windows in the door. Then, your order would be brought out, placed discretely in a brown paper bag and out you went.

Boy, things have sure changed.

We have so many options now; going to the LCBO to pick up your order. It’s expanded now to include coolers and even beer. Sometimes, product is even on sale! I never remember anything being on sale back in the day. And, since you weren’t seeing the product before ordering, impulse buying by looking at a fancy label was out of the question.

For a Sunday, your thoughts?

  • do you remember purchasing alcohol this way?
  • these days, you have options. Especially in Essex, Niagara, and Hastings-Prince Edward counties, there are so many local wineries. You can take a drive and pick up a bottle of wine right where it’s bottled. In Essex County, in any other year, we’d have “Explore the Shore” which takes you by so many
  • Ontario has flirted with various drinking ages. How many can you remember?
  • is there a product from the “good old days” of the LCBO that you can’t buy today?
  • some products are even available now in grocery stores with the promise that local variety store might some day join in. How do you feel about that? Were we that prudish in the past?
  • do we have more selection these days or did we just not realize it by not being able to browse the aisles?

I’d sure like to read your thoughts about this! And, thanks, Ramona for throwing that image out into my stream.

This post originates from:


If you read it anywhere else, it’s not the original.

7 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. Good morning Doug!

    Well, I’m definitely going to have to dredge the depths of my memory for this one.

    Fortunately, my brother sent me a photo by text this past week from the patio of an unfamiliar pub. The pub’s name on the beer glass sent me to Google Maps to figure out where he was, and lo and behold it turns out he was back in our hometown (he had told me earlier that he was going there for a golf tournament). Although the pub was new since I was last there, I was familiar enough with the general part of town from my childhood memories to ask him some questions about what had and hadn’t changed. One of the things still on the map in the neighbourhood was the LCBO. From the image on Google Street view, my assessment was it was the same building, possibly reskinned over the years with some newish aluminum siding over the previous brick?

    I’m glad you included that photograph of the “liquor menus” on the order desks at the LCBO because that image certainly brings back memories. I couldn’t tell you when they stopped using those odd menu tables and turned the LCBO into a regular browsing store, but I do remember going with my parents when I was little. Am I correct in remembering that the order desk had containers of little golf pencils? I remember ordering things at Consumers Distributing and they had those little pencils. Anyway, I’m not sure when the LCBO did their marketing revamp, but I don’t have a lot of memories as an of-majority adult wrestling with golf pencils and those order desks to purchase liquor, so maybe it happened sometime after my parents stopped taking me with them when they went to do their shopping?

    The Brewers Retail (which I also recall was the name of The Beer Store) was right next door and I have memories of the roller track that they used to use to send a case of two-four flying out from the back. There was also an inbound roller track at the entrance. Those were the days when you returned the case of empty two-four brown stubbies to get the deposit back.

    I also have memories of those same roller tracks down the street at the A&P (Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company) as they were used to send your bins of groceries out through the rubber-flapped mini door to the outdoor pickup where you would drive up and have the groceries loaded into your car by the man in the red apron. I remember that I got to be a grocery once and rode from the check out out through that mini-door to the car in my own red plastic bin.

    As for the age of majority in Ontario, I only approached it once and don’t have a significant memory of being overly excited the day I reached it. I remember being carded once in Quebec city during a French trip while I was in high school. Most of my classmates were a year older, and I know that the doorman studied my drivers‘ license for what seems like an awfully long time before he let me in. My assumption at the time was that although Quebec had a younger age of majority, he must’ve figured that Ontario had an even lower one because otherwise why would I be even showing him an Ontario license that clearly put me at a year younger than Quebec’s age of majority?

    As for products that don’t exist anymore, I’m going to have to go on third-party information as it relates to the bags that the Crown Royal bottle so used to come in. We have always used them to store Scrabble tiles in my family, and I recall late-night conversations with relatives about the rattiness of the condition of their bag and their reply that you couldn’t get them anymore? Apparently Crown Royal changed their practice at some point. I have since seen ads where you can get it with a super luxurious velvet bag if you pay extra, but somehow that wouldn’t be the same.


  2. Wow, lots of history to put to a timeline on this topic!
    I do recall looking up at those LCBO boards when I was little. I was probably with my Dad. Those pens attached to chains to fill in the order card would be a no-no now with the pandemic!
    I think I was “of age” as I recall the beer cases on roller tracks well! The set-up of both the LCBO and beer store back then must have made it more intimidating to attempt to buy “under age”.
    I recall when Ontario changed the drinking age from 18 to 19. In my hometown, those who just turned 18 and were annoyed by that just drove an hour or so west to cross into Manitoba where the legal age was 18 (and still is). Since there was still Gr. 13 at the time, I turned 19 just before attending university. It took a few months for my official age of majority card to arrive though, so it was a little frustrating trying to convince my way into a pub with other ID for the first while on campus.
    No vineyards in our region, but we do enjoy dropping by our local craft breweries to purchase a new brew either in cans, bottles or “growlers”.
    We have done more online ordering through the LCBO since the pandemic and we wonder if we might just continue with that option. But my husband does like to browse the vintage wine section and sale items.
    The crockinole board playing chips are stored in our Crown Royal bag — came that way when we inherited it from my husband’s family!
    I like that we can buy single cans of beer now at the LCBO! (or some grocery stores). We haven’t bought more than 6 cans or bottles of one brand of beer for a long time. Our beer fridge usually has a good variety for guests to choose from, if you should visit one day, Doug. 🙂


  3. Sheila!

    Crokinole was a big holiday game in my family as well (my mom and her sisters were all curlers). However, I am quite certain that the wooden pieces were NOT stored in a crown royal bag. It’s odd that I can’t remember what they WERE stored in.


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  6. I don’t remember the LCBO like this, but it does remind me of the old Consumers Distributing stores. I think those were gone by the time I was able to drive. It also brings to mind the rush to renew your plates and driver’s license at the end of each calendar year with the province. I wasn’t a driver yet, but I remember seeing the news stories about it with lots of people lined up the last few days of the year. Now that we renew based on our birthdays and can renew online, these big lineups don’t really happen anymore. Maybe that’s a post for you too, Doug?

    Liked by 1 person

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