Maria and Brad Willing have waited more than 12 years to be able to serve alcohol from their store on Haliburton Lake.

As of Aug. 27, they finally can. Their Fort Irwin Marina is among the first in a new wave of approximately 200 LCBO Convenience Outlets opening across Ontario in underserved communities.

“We’re very happy about it and I think it will be a huge asset to the lake,” Maria Willing said. “The lake was ecstatic.”

The pair completed renovations in their seasonal store and have built a new counter, stocked with a range of alcoholic beverages. The store will offer Haliburton Lake area residents and cottagers a closer stop to purchase than the previous nearest alcohol
store in Eagle Lake, approximately 12 kilometres away.

“It’s just convenience,” Cottager Robert Bevan said as he exited the marina. “Save me driving into Eagle Lake, so I’m happy.”

The outlet was part of a push by the provincial government to make alcohol available in more locations. It announced June 6 it would open alcohol sales to nearly 300 new locations in Ontario. Approximately 60 of the outlets opened in August, with more expected in December.

“By opening up more alcohol retail outlets across the province, we are not only making life easier for people, we are enabling growth and job creation in the province’s booming beer and wine industry,” then-Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli said at the time.

The Haliburton Lake Cottagers Association praised the marina store in an email to members.

“They (Maria and Brad Willing) did a wonderful job in the renovation side … this is a wonderful addition to our community,” the association said.

Maria Willing said it was no small undertaking. The marina has tried to get an outlet since 2007 but only made headway when the new Conservative government was elected. The store bears most of the costs to become an outlet, including renovations and purchasing stock.

“You have to plan and you have to make sure you’re capable of carrying this through because it’s a huge endeavour,” Willing said.

“There were a lot of people who helped and guided us through this. The process wasn’t always easy and just thank everybody who did help us.”

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