The Beer Store in Barry's Bay is slated to close at the end of June.

Barry’s Bay – It’s one thing for a bank to close a branch in a small town, but when The Beer Store decides to close up shop in a bustling village like Barry’s Bay, that’s a whole other matter.

Last week, a notice was posted in the Barry’s Bay store the retail outlet owned by Brewer’s Retail of Ontario will be closing at the end of June.

But apparently, the reason has nothing to do with volume and sales as the store is busy and located in an area that swells with tourists and visitors in the summer and fall months.

Rather, it seems it all has to do with the cost of leasing the premises on main street.

The Brewers Retail, which was officially renamed The Beer Store in 1985, has been leasing its current location since 1969. The Barry’s Bay property is owned by Olsheski Holdings Inc. which purchased the building in the early 1990s.

President Joseph Olsheski told the Leader the current lease agreement came up for renewal on March 31 and he said his company and The Beer Store were not able to agree on a new rate and so the decision was made by The Beer Store not to renew the lease. The Leader was also informed employees at the store have been given their termination notices.

Mr. Olsheski said The Beer Store had proposed a $9 square foot lease and their counter was $9.75 however, their counteroffer was met with no response from Beer Store officials.

“I think we can all agree The Beer Store does a large volume in Barry’s Bay and for a company to walk for just over $300 a month doesn’t make good business sense,” Mr. Olsheski said.

“We were ready and willing to negotiate with them, but we have not received any correspondence or requests to continue to negotiate.”

Mr. Olsheski said there was no response from The Beer Store until April 9 when the Director of Real Estate and Construction sent an email with an attached letter dated March 29 (Good Friday), stating the agreement would be terminated on June 30 and the store closed.

The Beer Store retail and wholesale system is owned primarily by three brewing companies: Molson, Labatt and Sleeman, which are owned by multinational corporations. There are currently 424 stores in Ontario.

The Leader attempted to contact Beer Store officials by phone and email without success.

Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski is very concerned with the decision and although The Beer Store is a private corporation, he spoke with the Minister of Finance because there is a framework agreement with the company and the province. He also plans to communicate directly with Beer Store officials as the local MPP voicing his displeasure with the decision. He is also a resident of the Bay and knows the closure will hurt the community which thrives on tourism in the warmer months

“I am very concerned about what is happening here,” he said. “The Beer Store is an anchor store in a community like Barry’s Bay and there is no immediate alternative. It certainly would have a critically negative impact on this community and surrounding area.”

Mr. Yakabuski said this is a matter that has to be worked out somehow because the closure of the store will have a big impact on other businesses and also on tourism.

Madawaska Valley Mayor Mark Willmer said Tuesday he had only heard rumours of the store closing and wasn’t familiar with the details, but said it is a matter of concern for the township and wider area and it is something his council will likely get involved in.

“It’s absolutely devastating for Barry’s Bay, particularly in the summer,” he said. “A lot of people, when they are driving through heading to Algonquin Park, will stop there. It’s a very busy store and the spin over business to other businesses in town is important. It’s going to be a huge loss to the entire township.”

The nearest full-service beer stores to Barry’s Bay are Eganville, Bancroft and Huntsville. There is a combined beer/liquor store in Killaloe and beer is also available in variety and convenience stores in Round Lake, Golden Lake, Combermere, Palmer Rapids, Madawaska and Whitney.

Mayor Willmer said the Bay store is very busy, especially in the summer months and during hunting season. He said if it does not remain in the community, it will be missed.

He said the timing is unfortunate with the May long weekend not far off which also is the unofficial kick-off to the summer season.

Mayor Willmer said he was aware The Beer Store had not renewed its lease at its present site, but he was totally unaware the company was planning to close the store.

“I certainly will be talking to John (Yakabuski) and I will discuss it with council and do whatever we can to put some pressure on them and at least re-open somewhere else if they can’t reach an agreement there.”

He said to lose The Beer Store will be a huge loss to the village and area.

“It really is an anchor store,” he said. “Our two grocery stores, The Beer Store and the LCBO are really the anchors of the downtown core.”

Mayor Willmer said the store’s location is ideal and is very visible. He said there will be many people in for a surprise this summer if it’s not open.