The 200-year tradition of quality wines begins in Mississauga, Ontario. Johan Schiller, an immigrant from the wine-growing region of Hessian Bergenstrasse in Germany, starts the first Ontario commercial winery.
Ontario’s earliest pubs and micro-breweries start opening. Pubs serve as meeting places for growing communities, somewhere for people to get a refreshing beverage or for stage coaches to change horses. These same pubs also double as churches, military garrisons and town halls for early settlers.
The American Civil War brings a halt to whisky production in the U.S. and Canadian whisky becomes the beverage alcohol of choice for all of North America. Canadian whisky eventually expands worldwide. Queen Victoria is said to have enjoyed a glass of Canadian whisky every night “for medicinal purposes.”
To help the war effort, beverage alcohol is restricted. This restriction grows to a prohibition on alcoholic beverages under the Ontario Temperance Act that lasts until the Liquor Control Board of Ontario launches in 1927. Only Ontario wine is unrestricted in its sale. The demand for Ontario wine is so intense, producers water it down and, not surprisingly, quality suffers.
Ontario ends prohibition and establishes the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), opening 16 stores, three mail order departments and four warehouses. Liquor permits (costing $2) are required to buy alcohol. A total of 86 stores are opened before the end of the year.
Ontario expands services throughout the province. In 1934, hotel beverage rooms are licensed by LCBO to sell beer; dining rooms are licensed to sell wine and beer, but not liquor. American tourists flood north to holiday in Ontario to enjoy the legal sale of beverage alcohol, something denied to them at home in the United States where prohibition is still in effect until 1934.
In 1947, the Liquor Licence Board of Ontario (now part of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario) takes over responsibility for regulating licensed premises from LCBO. Lounges are allowed to sell liquor as well as wine and beer.
In 1961, permits required for the purchase of liquor are abolished. Business is booming, but customers are demanding more stores, better quality products and more help choosing what they need. The LCBO triples its number of stores by the early 1960s and introduces its first wine consultants (now called product consultants).
LCBO opens Rare Wines & Spirits stores in Toronto and Ottawa, and wine growers take the first steps to revitalizing the Ontario wine industry. Inniskillin Winery becomes the first commercial winery to be founded in decades.
In 1971, the legal drinking age in Ontario is lowered to 18 from 21 years of age and then raised to 19 years of age in 1978. In 1975, LCBO is incorporated as a Crown Corporation of the provincial government.
The LCBO’s Durham warehouse opens to supply a growing number of stores and the LCBO reorganizes its buying operations to meet changing tastes. The corporation begins marketing products for the first time and revitalizes its stores with appealing displays and more knowledgeable sales staff. VINTAGES stores are opened and the merchandising division is created.
In 1986, LCBO unveils its first corporate logo and in 1988, LCBO introduces a free customer magazine, LCBO Today. In 1989, LCBO launches LCBO Infoline, a toll-free, bilingual customer inquiry line that is now called helloLCBO. New craft breweries open in Ontario for the first time in decades.
The first Ontario VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) wines appear in LCBO stores in 1990 with $5 million in sales that year. In 1993, LCBO Today is renamed FOOD & DRINK. The revamped magazine offers more food and beverage information, entertaining ideas and responsible hosting tips. That same year, the LCBO launches its distinctive marketing program Shop the World.
LCBO introduces BYID (Bring Your Identification) photo ID card in 1996 to make it easier to identify customers of legal drinking age. Also that year, AIR MILES Rewards are launched.
LCBO partners with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada to launch a responsible drinking advertising campaign in 1999.
In 2002, the LCBO marks its 75th anniversary with customer appreciation events in some 383 stores across the province.
In 2003, LCBO officially re-opens its Summerhill flagship store in the restored North Toronto Station, a former Canadian Pacific train station. This historic building boasts grand architectural features including original marble walls, a 40-foot vaulted ceiling, brass ticket wickets and a spectacular clock tower.
In 2009, LCBO launches its 10th social responsibility campaign called Deflate the Elephant. Developed from consumer research, the campaign aims to minimize the awkwardness or embarrassment hosts feel when attempting to help prevent guests from drinking and driving by encouraging them to speak up and help save a life.
After more than 10 years, LCBO is rolling out a new brand logo and slogan: Let’s get together. Since inviting customers for 10 years to Discover the World, the LCBO moves to make social gatherings — formal and casual, indoors or al fresco — both responsible and fun. Whenever people get together, the LCBO can be part of the crowd.