Summary of 2011 Liquor Licence Act Changes

On June 1st, 2011, amendments made by the Ontario legislature to the Liquor Licence Act, and its Regulations came into force. In general, these changes loosened several past restrictions placed upon members of the hospitality industry in regards to the service of alcohol.

Included in these changes are:

COMPLIMENTARY ALCOHOLIC DRINKS

As of June 1st, bar and restaurant owners in Ontario are now permitted to offer their customers complimentary liquor, as long as that offer does not encourage immoderate consumption and is for the purpose of customer relations. This amendment provides a vast change to the province’s previous restrictions which prohibited licence holders from supplying liquor free of charge.

In doing so, the amendment has also altered the previous rule held under s.22 of the LLA’s Regulations that prohibited owners from selling any amount of liquor for less than a total purchase price of two dollars. While the supply of alcohol for less than two dollars is now permitted, owners are still prohibited from advertising any complimentary liquor.

SERVICE OF ALCOHOL UNTIL 2 A.M. FOR CHARITY EVENTS, WEDDINGS AND PUBLIC FUNCTIONS

In an effort to stay consistent with licenced establishments, events to which a Special Occasions Permit has been obtained, including Weddings and Charity functions, may now extend their service of liquor until 2.a.m. While this change does not affect those establishments already licenced under the province of Ontario, event holders must be aware that any liability for damage, injury, and penalty associated to them by law, is now extended until 2 a.m. by that same law.

ALL INCLUSIVE DEALS

Taking a page from hotspots in the Caribbean and Mexico, the June 1st amendments now allow any Ontario liquor licence holder to include in a single package price, a combination of one or more of liquor, food, accommodation or trip.

In doing so this amendment greatly affects the hospitality industry’s ability to create and offer promotions. While the obvious all-inclusive packages can now be imagined for the hotel and motel sectors, the most common, and likely effect of this change would the already popular restaurant promotion of one drink and one entrée for a single and distinctive price.

Prior to the amendment, bar/restaurant owners were required, if asked, to offer a discounted price of each of the two or more items offered, proportionate to the combined promotional price.

ADDITIONS TO VALID PIECES OF IDENTIFICATION

After June 1st, patrons of any bar, hotel or restaurant may now show that they are of legal age by producing, in addition to the four standard identification pieces,

  • A secure certificate of Indian status issued by the Government of Canada
  • A permanent resident card issued by the Government of Canada
  • A photo card issued under the Photo Card Act, 2008

SERVICE OF ALCOHOL AT FESTIVALS

Referred by many to be the most notable amendment made to the LLA, those organizing outdoor festivals or fairs are no longer required to have designated “beer tents” for the sale and consumption of alcohol. While an event holder is still required to obtain a valid liquor licence, and to serve alcohol only within the licenced area, the legislative provision permits patrons of public, outdoor events to which a Special Occasion Permit has been obtained to take their drink out of the licenced area and keep it with them throughout the area that has been designated by permit.

While this added freedom is, no doubt, a welcome addition to those seeking a relaxing event experience, drink in hand, the change in legislation puts on notice members of the hospitality industry in regards to its implications on public safety and most importantly liability for injury or damage caused.

Unchanged are the rules provided under s. 29 and s. 39 of the LLA that state that “no person shall sell or supply liquor…to any person who is or appears to be intoxicated”, and that individuals may hold the event holder responsible for any injury. In addition, a bartender has the added responsibility of ensuring that those intoxicated are safe.

When confined to an area such as a licenced establishment or within a beer tent, these responsibilities on bartenders and bar owners has been proven manageable. Throughout the grounds of an entire fair or festival however, the task is considerably more difficult, requiring event holders and accompanying staff to be more alert.

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