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Things You Must Know

Avoiding Violations

On November 29, 2021, the Ontario government introduced the Liquor Licence and Control Act, 2019 (LLCA). Regulations have been updated and are available at Ontario.ca/laws.

NOTE: We are currently in the process of updating our training program to reflect the new LLCA.  Please review the Information Bulletin from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) for more information on how it may impact you.

Know the Law

Quick Tips on Responsible Service Every Licensee Must Know

In the province of Ontario you can legally serve alcohol at 18 years of age, however, you must be at least 19 years old to legally consume or be in possession of alcohol

Acceptable Forms of Identification (I.D.)
The only legally acceptable forms of identification are:

  • Ontario Driver’s Licence
  • Canadian Passport
  • Canadian Citizenship Card
  • Canadian Armed Forces Card
  • Bring Your Identification (BYID) card issued by the LCBO
  • Secure Indian Status Card (Canadian)
  • Permanent Resident Card (Canadian)
  • Any photo card issued under the Photo Card Act 2008

Note: To be legally acceptable, all identification must be valid. Expired I.D. is not acceptable. By law, you should not ask for the Ontario Health Card as identification.

Hours of Alcohol Service

For all hours of Alcohol Sale and Service and clock changes, please refer to the AGCO website.

Licensed Establishments:

  • Monday to Sunday: 9 a.m. to 2 a.m.
  • New Year’s Eve (December 31): 9 a.m. to 3 a.m.

Some licensed establishments located at eligible Ontario airports may sell and serve liquor at any time, unless limited by their licence.

Liquor Delivery Services:

  • Monday to Sunday: 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  • From eligible licensed establishments or retail stores.

This includes liquor purchased from retail stores and from a liquor sales licensee for sale with food for delivery or takeout.

Retail Sale Hours:

  • Monday to Sunday: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Retail stores are only permitted to sell alcohol within the permissible hours, even if they have operating hours outside of this time-period.

Manufacturer’s Limited Sales Licence (By the Glass):

  • Monday to Sunday: 9 a.m. to 12 a.m.

Special Occasion Permit Events:

  • Monday to Sunday: 9 a.m. 2 a.m.
  • New Year’s Eve (December 31): 9 a.m. to 3 a.m.

Some licences and special occasion permits may have conditions that limit the above noted hours.

Mandatory Signs

The Sandy’s Law sign, or the sign warning women about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), must be prominently posted in all licensed establishments.

The sign can be printed in black and white, or colour, and must be at least 8 x 10 inches in size.

Failure to post the sign as directed is an offence under the Liquor Licence and Control Act, 2019 (LLCA).

Checking Identification (I.D.)

Age Identification

Why check I.D.?

It is your responsibility to determine whether your guests are 19 years of age or older.

  • In Ontario, it’s illegal for licensed establishments to sell or serve alcohol to anyone under 19 years of age.
  • Serving alcohol to underaged guests, besides being against the law, is an offence under the Liquor Licence and Control Act, 2019 (LLCA) and can lead to monetary penalties by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) and the police.
  • You and your establishment can be held responsible and your employer’s Liquor Licence can be suspended or revoked.

When to check I.D.?

  • When a person looks younger than 25 years of age.
  • When body language or behaviour is unusual. For example, avoiding eye contact or trying to rush the process.

Acceptable I.D.

  • Valid provincial driver’s licence or out-of-province photo driver’s licence.
  • Canadian Armed Forces Identification Card.
  • Valid Passport.
  • Certificate of Indian Status.
  • Canadian Citizenship Card.
  • Permanent Resident Card issued by Government of Canada.
  • Photo Card issued under the Photo CardAct, 2008.
  • Bring Your Identification (BYID) card issued by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO).

If you are unfamiliar with the I.D. presented, you should ask for another piece of government-issued photo I.D.. NEVER accept student cards or an EXPIRED I.D..

How to check I.D.?

  • Examine in a well-lit area.
  • Tilt the I.D. under light to see all of the reflective seals and holograms flash.
  • Check the overall condition of the card – minors often use the expired I.D. of a family member or friend.
  • Visually and manually confirm that the ID’s size, weight and shape are normal and that the photo, lettering and lamination haven’t been switched, altered or tampered with.
  • Check for uneven surfaces and edges as well as cuts or bubbles in the laminate.

What to look for:

  • Does the person actually look old enough to be the person on the I.D.?
  • Does the I.D. verify that the person is over the legal drinking age?
  • If the colours are dull/faded or if the birth or expiry dates look scratched, or appear to have been tampered with – DO NOT accept the I.D.
  • Are the letters in the same font and same size of font?
  • Beware of misspelled words.
  • Compare the I.D. photo and description – height, weight, eye and hair colour are the most likely and easiest to tamper with. Pay attention to the shape and size of the facial features.
  • The Ontario Drivers Licence picture is in black and white – consider checking other features such as: shape of face, cheek bone structure.
  • The Ontario Drivers Licence states a person’s height in cm. If you are not familiar with this unit of measurement, know your own height in both inches and cm for comparison.
  • Keep on file, a copy of a current legitimate I.D. available for comparison’s sake.

NOTE: In Ontario, the Health Card can only be used as a secondary piece of I.D. and can only be accepted if offered.

What to do when the person & I.D. don’t match:

It is your right and responsibility to ask for additional identification if you have any concerns about the I.D. that has been presented to you. If you still have doubts about the validity of the I.D.’s, you might want to consider asking the following questions:

  • What is your birthday?
  • How do you spell your middle name?
  • What is your postal code?
  • What is your street address?
  • Ask the person to sign a blank sheet of paper and compare the signature to the one on the I.D..

Again, pay attention to body language and behaviour. For more information about Acceptable forms of I.D., please visit the AGCO website.

Risk Management

Managing Risk:

Special event organizers have both a legal and practical duty to ensure their guests drink responsibly. For large scale events, especially where the general public is admitted. you should always prepare a risk management plan.

A properly prepared risk management plan will help identify potential problems. The key elements of such a plan are:

  • Conducting a thorough safety inspection of your premises.
  • Communicating the risk management plan and the emergency action plan to all staff.
  • Establishing and posting house policies and ensure that everyone knows what they are.
  • Developing an emergency action plan and include a chain of command.
  • Acquiring insurance coverage and any necessary permits.
  • Arranging for safe transportation home for your guests.
  • Ensuring all staff/volunteers are Smart Serve Certified.
  • Having a Smart Serve Incident Reporting Log on hand to record details of all guest incidents.
Reducing the Risk

You can lower your risk by learning how to prevent guests from overindulging at your next event. This includes:

  • Never allowing already intoxicated people into your event.
  • Never serving minors, and checking the ID of people you suspect are under 25.
  • Discouraging excessive drinking or serving alcohol to anyone you suspect may already be intoxicated.
  • Preventing drunken, violent or disorderly conduct at the event.
  • Never letting guests drink and drive.
  • Never making drinking the focus of your event.
  • Serving alcohol only within the allowed hours as stated on your Liquor Licence.
  • Always serving food with alcohol.
  • Offering a variety of low-alcohol and alcohol-free drinks at a reasonable price

You may also lessen your risk by hiring a licensed caterer or bartender who is Smart Serve Certified.

Policies and Procedures

A well written Policy and Procedures’ Manual will inform staff and guests on acceptable practice and culture of responsible service of alcohol. The policy should be clear, positive and easy to update.

The Policies should be reviewed with staff/volunteers and posted in a visible place.

Some things to include, would be:

  • Sexual violence policy
  • Guidelines on how to deal with aggressive, unruly, and intoxicated guests.
  • Not allowing staff/volunteers to drink on the job, or be under the influence of any kind.
  • Ensuring that staff/volunteers are of legal age to sell & serve alcohol.
  • Ensuring that staff/volunteers are trained to deal with difficult situations.
  • Ensuring that staff/volunteers understand best practices, when it comes to handling difficult situations and removing a guest (such as: having a female staff member involved when dealing with a female customer, if available).
  • Preparing for adequate guest-to-staff ratio. Have enough staff on duty to ensure the safety of your customers/guests.
  • Dealing with underaged guests, including how to recognize and deal with false I.D.

Preventing Intoxication

As a host, keeping your guests from drinking excessively should be your primary concern.
Here are some tips you can put into practice to make your next event a safe one.

DO:

  • Make sure you understand the Liquor Licence and Control Act, 2019 (LLCA) and Regulations.
  • Create and enforce house policies that promote responsible service and moderate alcohol consumption.
  • Post your licence or permit.
  • Ensure that staff/volunteers selling/serving alcohol are at least 18 years of age.
  • Assign a trained staff member (or professional security) to monitor the door.
  • Check the I.D. of people you suspect are underage and look under 25 years of age.
  • Ensure the number of people on the premises is within lawful capacity.
  • Station the bar far from the door, in a spot where people aren’t always passing it.
  • Serve drinks to guests rather than offering a self-serve bar.
  • Hire a professional bartender who is Smart Serve Certified.
  • Hire a caterer with trained staff. Caterers can include both independent operators and restaurants that carry catering endorsements.
  • Provide a variety of food items because the consumption of food slows down the absorption of alcohol. Try to limit salty foods, as they make people thirsty.
  • Close your bar well before the scheduled end of the party.

DON’T:

  • Plan to have servers circulating around the room refilling people’s glasses. People often accept drinks they don’t really want.
  • Plan physical activities like swimming, skiing, snowmobiling or skating when you serve alcohol. People are more prone to accidents when they’ve been drinking.
  • Allow the number of guests to exceed the legal capacity of the premises.
  • Sell multiple beverage tickets to one guest.
  • Price alcohol too low, since this will encourage heavy drinking.

Special Occasion Permits

Special Occasion Permits (SOPs) are required for the service of alcohol at an event in any location other than a licensed establishment (bar or restaurant), private place (boardroom in a private office), or residence. However, if alcohol is being offered for sale at a private place, an SOP is required – this excludes private residences (your home) where alcohol cannot be sold.

  • Private Event: For events where only invited guests will attend. Weddings, corporate parties.
  • Public Events: For events that are open to the public. Fundraisers, charity events.
  • Tailgate Events: For Public Events that are held outdoors, in connection with, and in proximity to, an eligible live sporting event and where attendees 19 years of age or older may bring their own liquor (BYOB) for consumption at the event.
  • Industry Promotional Events: For events held to promote a liquor manufacturer’s product through sampling.

As an event organizer, you are responsible for your guest’s safety and sobriety. If your guests become intoxicated, you’re responsible until they sober up, not just until they leave your event. It is important to know you may be held responsible for injuries or damages that occur as a result of the alcohol you provide.

When do I need a Public Event Special Occasion Permit?

If you are planning an event open to the public and wish to sell or serve alcohol, you will need to apply for and obtain a Special Occasion Permit (SOP). Public event organizers can apply for their Special Occasion Permits online, directly with the AGCO by using the iAGCO online portal.

Important:  As a permit holder, you are personally responsible to ensure that alcohol is sold and served responsibly and according to the law.

Click Here for Additional Tips on Responsible Alcohol Service at Festivals and Large Public Events

When do I need a Private Event Permit Special Occasion Permit?

If you are planning a special event anywhere other than a private place, or an establishment with a liquor licence and wish to serve alcohol you will need to apply for and obtain a Special Occasion Permit (SOP).

Private Event SOPs are for occasional events for invited guests only, such as a birthday party or wedding. The event cannot be advertised to the public. As the holder of a Private Event SOP, you cannot run the event with the intention of profiting from the sale of alcohol at the event. Applications for SOPs can apply online, directly with the AGCO by using the iAGCO online portal.

Important: As a permit holder, you are personally responsible to ensure that alcohol is sold and served responsibly and according to the law.

Duty of Care – A Checklist for Caring Hosts

Ask guests ahead of time to volunteer as designated drivers

Let them know you’ll serve alcohol-free drinks.
Remind volunteers that Designated Drivers’ don’t drink and drive.
Thank them for helping to keep our roads safe.

Recognize the signs of intoxication in your guests

  • Fast/slow/loud/slurred speech.
  • Physical clumsiness or lack of alertness.
  • Tiredness, red eyes or heavy eyelids.

Explore the options

  • A sober companion to get the guest home safely?
  • A friend or relative to call to pick up the guest?
  • Public transportation available?
  • Money for a taxi?

Provide help to prevent drinking and driving

  • Provide taxi numbers or public transit schedules.
  • Offer to make calls for them to find a safe ride home.
  • Invite them to stay overnight.
  • Match them with a Designated Driver.
  • Thank them for not drinking and driving.