The Régie des alcools des courses et des jeux (RACJ) is primarily responsible for issuing permits (for the production, distribution, and possession of alcohol) and approving advertisements for alcoholic beverages.
The Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) is a government corporation whose mission is to sell alcoholic beverages. In 2018-2019:
- 837 points of sale
- 14,350 products sold
- Nearly $3.294 billion in sales
- $1.146 billion paid to the Government of Quebec in dividends
In 2019, 145 businesses held a small-scale production permit authorizing them to make wine. In addition, 14 businesses held an industrial wine maker’s permit. For more information on wine production in Quebec, visit the ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation website (Department of agriculture, fisheries and food) or contact the RACJ’s Service des fabricants (producers’ department).
There are 174 businesses that hold an industrial brewer’s permit and 68 individuals who hold a small-scale brewer’s permit in the province. Information on this sector is also available through the Association des brasseurs du Québec and the Association des microbrasseries du Québec.
The spirits sector now has nearly 80 businesses that hold a distiller’s permit or a “liquor and spirits” small-scale production permit.
For 2018-2019, the total number of producer’s and distributor’s permits for all alcoholic beverages combined reached 1,294 permits.
The SAQ publicly solicits offers for all new products. The SAQ can also solicit offers from specific suppliers or negotiate by mutual agreement with them.
Despite the general rule referred to in the previous paragraph, a supplier may also submit an offer for a product on its own initiative at any time.
In determining whether the proposed product is able to meet the strategic objectives in its category, the product is assessed based on its quality, reputation and sales potential. Any sustainable development efforts made by suppliers are also considered when assessing proposed products.
In addition, in order to be accepted, proposed products must comply with applicable standards for labelling, packaging, composition and elaboration, and must not represent a risk to the SAQ’s brand image.
In its procurement process, the SAQ takes into account business considerations such as price, quality, available quantities, marketability, transportation and other conditions related to purchasing or sales, and provides suppliers with adequate opportunities to participate in these purchases in compliance with current business practices.
The SAQ’s Purchasing and Merchandising Policy is available online.
Labelling and packaging requirements
SAQ publishes a guide for its suppliers on bottle labelling and packaging that is available online.
Laboratory testing requirements
All wines sold in Quebec are tested in the SAQ laboratory, whether or not they were bottled in Quebec. This laboratory, which is ISO 17025-certified, performs over 70,000 analyses every year and ensures the quality of the wines sold at SAQ stores, groceries and convenience stores.
SAQ publishes a guide for its suppliers on current standards.
The sales price includes:
- Supplier price
- SAQ service fee
- Customs duties (as applicable)
- Taxes and other applicable fees (e.g.: excise duty, provincial sales tax, deposit, etc.)
Applicable service fees according to product type are available online
Applicable excise duty rates according to product type are available online
Sales channels and distribution
In Quebec, the retail sale of alcoholic beverages is allowed, under certain conditions specific to particular product categories, in Société des alcools du Québec points of sale, in convenience and grocery stores and directly on production sites. Thus, each type of business must meet its specific requirements. In 2018, 7,384 grocery and convenience stores held permits authorizing them to sell alcoholic beverages. During this same period, the SAQ had 409 stores.
The SAQ has the exclusive primary distribution rights in Quebec on all alcoholic beverages, with the exception, essentially, of light cider, beer bottled in Quebec, and imported beer distributed by a distributor’s permit holder.
A beer distributor’s permit can also be issued by the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux. For more information, refer to the Act Respecting the Société des Alcools du Québec (CQLR, chapter S-13), section 25.1.
For more information on regulations pertaining to production and distribution, see the Act Respecting the Société des alcools du Québec (CQLR, chapter S-13) and section X on the transportation of alcoholic beverages in the Act Respecting Offences Relating to Alcoholic Beverages (CQLR, chapter I-8.1).
Marketing and promotion policies
A producer who intends to circulate alcoholic beverage advertising must obtain prior approval from the Régie des alcools des courses et des jeux (RACJ). Every year, the producer must submit an educational program relating to alcoholic beverages that they intend to implement or to have implemented. The Régie will issue a certificate of compliance if the advertising and educational program presented complies with the provisions of the regulation.
Permits are mandatory in order to produce, distribute, deliver, store and sell alcoholic beverages in Quebec, with the exception of the Société des alcools du Québec.
RACJ issues the liquor permits authorizing the sale or service of alcoholic beverages to the public. These permits are issued to places of business such as bars, restaurants and grocery stores.
For essential information on the rights and obligations of certain categories of alcohol permit holders, see the Act respecting liquor permits (CQLR, chapter P-9.1) as well as the document Droits et obligations des titulaires de permis d’alcool (Rights and obligations of liquor permit holders).
The Act Respecting the Société des Alcools du Québec governs the production of alcoholic beverages in Quebec. Therefore, any individual who wishes to operate a place of business to produce or distribute alcoholic beverages must obtain a permit from RACJ.
The Régie issues producer’s permits which vary based on the type of operation and alcoholic beverages involved, as is the case for permits for the distribution and storage of alcoholic beverages.
The complete list of permit holders for each category is available on the RACJ website.
Relevant legislation, regulations and policies
In Quebec, the production, distribution, delivery and commercialization of alcoholic beverages is regulated by federal and Quebec laws and many regulations.
For more information, see the section “Laws and regulations” of the RACJ website as well as the section “Se conformer/Boissons alcooliques” (Compliance/alcoholic beverages) of the Ministry of the Economy and Innovation website.
For information regarding the commercialization of goods, please contact the SAQ’s Business Relations Assistance Service (SARA) by email at [email protected] or by telephone at 514-254-2711.
For additional information on how to obtain a permit (production, distribution and sales), please contact the Service des fabricants (producers department) of the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux:
Montreal Region: 514-864-7225, ext. 22156
Elsewhere in Quebec (toll free): 1-800-363-0320
For any questions regarding the economic development of the alcoholic beverages sector, please contact the Direction du commerce et des boissons alcooliques du ministère de l’Économie et de l’Innovation at [email protected].