Ontario Liquor Regulations: Are They Too Outdated? [INFOGRAPHIC]

Toast by Wikimedia Commons
Toast by Wikimedia Commons

Even though currently there is no major discussion going on about public intoxication and public drinking regulations, maybe it’s high time to open the forum on the provincial level. Ontario, just like Canada as a whole, possesses a tremendous amount of laws dealing with alcohol and public spaces and the question is: doesn’t the government over-regulate? Aren’t we living under strict liquor-related regulations whose origins can probably be traced back to the era of prohibition in North America? Let’s have a quick look at some of the regulations that apply in Ontario and their latest developments.

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Ontario Regulations

Ontario liquor regulations Infographic
Ontario Liquor Regulations Infographic
  1. Concerning the purchase of alcohol, aside from the L.C.B.O (Liquor Control Board of Ontario), no service or establishment is entitled to sell alcoholic beverages before 11:00 A.M.
  2. It is considered unlawful to drink alcohol in public unless you are at establishment licensed to sell alcoholic drinks. Anyone caught drinking on the street could face a fine of $125.
  3. For example, if you want to enjoy a picnic in the park with your friends and drink some alcoholic drinks, it’s possible to obtain a permit for groups above 25 people. Just call the city at 416-392-8188 in advance and there should be no trouble with getting one. The price of the permit depends on the park that you choose, but generally stays within the $50-to-$75 price range.
  4. When it comes to public intoxication or public drunkenness, Ontario laws define two levels of intoxication. Under the first level, you might end up getting a ticket or being sent home or on your way. However, “intoxication” is a stronger term than just “impairment” and to qualify for a fine, you need to be “stupefied by liquor” and there should be at least substantial impairment present. So to put it in other words, having a couple of drinks with your friends doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re breaking the law and you shouldn’t get into any problems unless you drank too much.  The second level of intoxication recognized by police requires a much higher level of drunkenness. You would have to endanger someone else’s or your own safety, which makes it necessary for the police to arrest you to ensure protection of your own and public interests. From this, it’s clear that lawmakers tried to make it hard for police to roam the streets at night and arrest people coming out of a pub. While the law discourages public drunkenness, it doesn’t hit too hard (unlike laws in B.C., where any intoxicated person on the street can be immediately arrested by the police without a warrant).
  5. Here’s an absurd one: the L.C.B.O. can hire people who are 18 years old to work in a store and sell liquor, even though the people themselves aren’t allowed to buy it.

Recent Changes

Beer cans by Michelle Tribe
Beer cans by Michelle Tribe

Last year, liquor regulations saw the first wave of reform after years. The changes included a newly-introduced option of obtaining permits for all-inclusive vacations with booze. Furthermore, alcohol can also be served in bleachers rather than just stadiums. Special event regulations were loosened, as the time where alcohol could be served at weddings or charity events got extended and the rule saying that drinks cannot be carried from the bar to the patio if there’s a sidewalk in between was completely lifted.

Recently (effective since July 1st), there have been some more adjustments made to the regulations, sweeping away the most outdated liquor laws. Under the new regulations, organizers of multiple-day events don’t need to apply for several permits, as one special permit will do now. They can also carry over the alcohol from one day to the next throughout the duration of the event. The various categories of special occasion permits got reduced as well: instead of nine, there are only three different permits remaining for events like birthdays, weddings, and festivals.

Promoters are now also allowed to apply for a permit that will enable the promotion of a manufacturer’s products during special events, such as distributing samples or conducting market research. The last change to the legislation loosens the procedure for permit applicants; instead of having to apply at the local store, everyone can apply at any L.C.B.O. store.

Let’s Go Liberal

Gin Martini by RenaudPhoto
Gin Martini by RenaudPhoto

When talking to friends, nobody really understands what’s so wrong with having a can of beer during a hot day while enjoying a stroll in the streets of Toronto. Even though we have seen some liberating tendencies in the past years, maybe it’s time to move further. Everyone who has ever visited Europe (in most countries of the old continent, alcohol can be sold and drunk virtually anytime and anywhere) knows that public drinking doesn’t harm the well-being of the public. On the contrary, more people on the street at night mean more safety for everyone, as all urban planners know. Imagine having a glass of wine by the Seine with your significant other — things like that can be a memory you won’t ever forget, so why not introduce it to Ontario as well?

As one commenter puts it: “We should have more lax laws about drinking outdoors. I personally don’t agree with being able to drink anywhere outside. For example, residential streets and the like. However, in and around bars and entertainment venues, I would be more open to that. I remember in Europe you had swarms of people in the downtown bar district, standing and drinking on the street by the bar where they bought the beer. Very civilized, but also liberating.”

This article’s aim isn’t as much to advocate for public drinking. It’s more about realizing that some of the regulations we face might be useless and applied just for the sake of regulation. It’s kind of a North American thing to be so strict about alcohol. But is it really called for? Is it really so much better if people are walking around with awkward sacks around their bottles and the police acting okay with this ridiculous effort to hide the drink? If society doesn’t consider public drinking a problem anymore, then we should consider updating our legislation so that it keeps the pace with development in Ontario and doesn’t haunt us as a rigid restriction from the past.

Let us know your ideas. Do you think Ontario is ready for loosening its alcohol legislation or do you support stricter measures?

Ontario liquor regulations Infographic

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