Sobering reality check ends legal challenge v. Beer Store

Layer Michael Hassell abandoned his legal challenge against the Beer Store monopoly due to "a low chance of success and enormous costs."

A Toronto lawyer has abandoned his legal quest to break up the Beer Store monopoly in Ontario.

Michael Hassell reconsidered his challenge after obtaining “an external and expert legal opinion” gauging his chances.

The Court application has a low chance of success and would be extremely expensive,” Hassell said in a statement on his website.

With a low chance of success and enormous costs, it is not feasible to ask people to fund the litigation. Therefore the court application will not continue,” he told the Toronto Star.

He sounded far more optimistic just two weeks ago after initially notifying the government of his intention to challenge the 1927 law that grants the largely foreign-owned conglomerate a near-monopoly on provincial suds sales.

At the time, he said: “There’s a lot of judicial hostility to anything that stops competition without justification.” Hassell told FindLaw a couple of small legislative tweaks could fix the problem.

Hassell wasn’t available for any detailed comment on his abandoned legal challenge and instead pointed to a statement on the website for his now-defunct Barge Craft Beer venture.

However, frustrated beer-buyers shouldn’t abandon hope. The Beer Store still faces a bunch of legal and political hurdles that could still end up loosening its hold on the market.

It’s a defendant in a $1.4 billion class-action lawsuit and it’s facing heavy scrutiny from the province; both Premier Kathleen Wynne and Finance Minister Charles Sousa have said it’s time to re-evaluate the Beer Store business model.

It doesn’t stop there. Restaurants Canada has filed a complaint with the Competition Bureau as well, and there’s been increased public outcry since the Toronto Star exposed the Beer Store’s “sweetheart deal” with the province.

So take heart beer drinkers, relief may still be on the way.

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