Beer-For-Bag campaign fun, but not quite legal


Despite the fact that we’re nearly dollar for dollar with the Yanks right now, let it be known that my favourite currency isn’t the loonie.

For that matter, it’s not the greenback or the euro, either.

This may shock you: It’s beer.

It was just last Friday after the goalkeeper on my soccer team, Sergio Lopez, made a brilliant save in the shoddy dirt of Wexford Collegiate School’s field to stop a penalty shot I caused with an unintentional hand ball. How many times have you said something like this …

“Sergio, I owe you a beer.”

Lopez — like many of us — would be grateful to savour and swallow that soft, delicious currency, probably some of Eglinton brewpub The Granite’s Summer Ale. (Next Friday, Serge, promise!)

How many times have you paid your friends beer and pizza to move your junk to a new home?

It’s a relished reward, and a worker’s first love at day’s end.

That’s why I was so disappointed to learn that a wonderful idea for a promotion — Beer For Bags — is an illegal one, at least in Ontario.

Put on by Crumpler, an Australian maker of cool bags, it’s opening a shop on Queen Street West this Saturday and wants patrons to bring beer to them in exchange for knapsacks, laptop bags and camera carriers.

For example, luggage called Western Lawn, shown here full of Victoria Bitter, would cost “one case of Moosehead” and “4 Fosters oil cans.”

That’s about $53.30 for 24 341-ml bottles and four 750-ml cans, according to

Let’s go cheaper: The Thirsty Al camera sack costs “4 Boddington’s.” That’s $10.50 for four 440-ml cans. The campaign is set to run June 2-10 at its new Toronto store (831 Queen St. W.).

Here’s the problem: By carrying in those cases or cans of beer, you’re illegally selling beer to Crumpler, says Alcohol And Gaming Commission spokesman Ab Campion, quoting the Liquor Licence Act’s Sections 5 and 27.

“No person shall keep for sale, offer for sale or sell liquor except under the authority of a licence to permit to sell liquor,” Campion says. “Bartering would be considered selling.

“A person who gives beer for bags is in violation of the Liquor Licence Act Of Ontario.”

And worse for Crumpler, “possession of liquor not properly purchased would be considered an unlawful purchase. A person found in possession of the unlawful product could be fined if convicted in a court up to $100,000 for an individual and/or a year in jail. And a corporation could be fined up to $250,000.

“No person shall purchase liquor except from a government store.”

How boring, yet somewhat alarming.

Campion did have a chuckle when he heard about Crumpler’s bartering deal. “What will they think of next?” he said.

Crumpler has used this promotion in Australia and New York with success, but ran into problems in Adelaide, scoring on publicity but losing their haul of alcohol. They will take their chances on Saturday, too, Crumpler Canada director Jason Wood told Suds yesterday.

“We’re quite happy to keep it running. If the police shut it down, they shut it down.”

Meanwhile, Crumpler owner Dave Roper, who says his first beer, consumed without bag barter, was a Mill Street Organic, which he loved, is looking forward to throwing a party for all the patrons with their own beer this Sunday.

If you show up, he’ll fill you in on the details.

He says he didn’t mean to break the law or encourage people to do so. “It’s just a bit of fun,” the Aussie and former bike messenger says. “We’ve always traded. We were swapping bags for bike parts, booze, art, whatever was suitable. Barter is the oldest form of trade, and beer is like a currency in Australia amongst friends.

“Beer is valuable. We rate it very highly. We love it and we think, too, what better. We make nice bags, let’s get some beer.

“I hope Torontonians embrace the concept and have as much fun as we do. We certainly enjoy this.”