Things You Must Know

Avoiding Violations

Permitting Drunkenness/Violent & Disorderly Conduct

“The licence holder shall not permit drunkenness, unlawful gambling or riotous, quarrelsome, violent or disorderly conduct to occur on the premises or in the adjacent washrooms, liquor and food preparation areas and storage areas under the exclusive control of the licence holder.”
Reg.719,Section. 4545.145.246.


  • Guests who are drunk, violent, aggressive or out-of-control are not allowed on the premises.
  • Noisy patrons gathering outside an establishment after closing time should be politely dispersed.
  • Line-ups to get into licensed establishments must be properly monitored and secured.
  • Depending on the type of premises and patrons, all entrances should be properly supervised.
  • Patrons should always be sufficiently monitored to ensure that no improper activities are taking place.


…”the number of persons on the premises to which the licence applies, including employees of the licence holder, does not exceed the capacity of the licensed premises as stated on the licence..”
Reg.719, Section 43.


  • Every licensed establishment is issued a maximum capacity, which it cannot exceed.
  • The licensee must ensure that the number of guests and employees does not go above the maximum limit on the licensed premises.
  • Tips and techniques for controlling your door:
    • Assign at least two experienced staff when the door is busy.
    • Count the number of people entering and leaving the premises. Account for staff in your totals.
    • Set up a separate area where IDs can be checked.
Selling Liquor to Visibily Intoxicated persons


“No person shall sell or supply liquor or permit liquor to be sold or supplied to any person who is or appears to be intoxicated.”
R.S.O. 1990, c. L.19, s. 29.


Licencees must not serve patrons displaying signs of intoxication, such as:

  • Inappropriate speech volume
  • Shallow breathing
  • Glazed look in eyes
  • Difficulty seeing and hearing
Permitting Drugs


“The licence holder shall not permit a person to hold, offer for sale, sell, distribute or consume a controlled substance as defined in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (Canada) on the premises or in the adjacent washrooms, liquor and food preparation areas and storage areas under the exclusive control of the licence…”
Reg.719, Section 45, (2)


Take steps to discourage the presence of illegal drugs:

  • Proper lighting to avoid dark corners/areas.
  • Make all tables visible to staff and other patrons.
  • Place Security in areas of concern (bathroom entrance, side stage, doors, entries and exits).
  • Refuse entry/service to anyone suspected of participating in the sale or use of illegal drugs on the licensed premises areas.
Service outside of prescribed hours/Failure to Clear Signs of Service


“Except for December 31, liquor may be sold and served only between 9 a.m. on any day and 2 a.m. on the following day…”
Reg.719, Sections 2529.


  • Orders for alcohol must be served before the stop service time. For example, in a licensed establishment, you cannot serve drinks after 2:00 a.m., even if you took the order at 1:55 a.m. (except on New Year’s Eve).
  • All alcohol and its containers (including empty glasses and bottles) must be cleared away within 45 minutes of the stop-service time.
Illegal Liquor on Premises


“The licence holder shall not permit liquor, other than liquor purchased by the licence holder under licence from a government store, to be brought onto the premises to which the licence applies or that are used in connection with the sale and service of liquor, including the liquor and food preparation area and storage areas.”
Reg.719, Section 33.


  • You cannot offer liquor for sale and service that is not purchased under YOUR licence from an Ontario government store.
  • Examples of illegal liquor include: smuggled liquor, home made liquor, adulterated or ‘watered down’ liquor, any liquor brought onto the premises by a customer or anyone else, any liquor purchased from a government store but not under your licence, personal bottles or liquor legally imported to Canada.
Allowing Removal of Liquor from Premises


“The licence holder shall not permit a patron to remove liquor from the premises to which the licence applies”
Reg.719, Section 34.


  • The only time alcohol can be removed from a licensed area is when the establishment has applied for and been granted a Limited Licensing of Washrooms, Hallways and Stairwells and Other Similar Areas (WHS Policy).
  • This policy allows customers to have alcoholic beverages in washrooms, hallways and stairwells of licensed establishments. To qualify, the limited licensed area must be fully approved by the AGCO before a licensee may permit alcohol to be taken into these areas by guests.
Obstructing Inspection


…”No person shall obstruct a person carrying out an inspection under this Act or withhold, destroy, conceal or refuse to provide any relevant information or thing required for the purpose of the inspection…”
Reg.719, Sections 44, (2)


  • All staff must have a clear understanding that they are not allowed to deny entry to AGCO Inspectors, Health Inspectors, Law Enforcement Officers and Firefighters, acting in the course of their duties. during or after hours of operation.
Serving Minors/Failure to Check ID


…”before liquor is sold or served to a person apparently under the age of nineteen years, an item of identification of the person is inspected.”
Reg.719,Sections 4142


  • ID should be checked at the door, bar or at the table. In some establishments the policy is to check ID at the door and table to make sure someone wasn’t missed.
  • Steps to checking age identification:
    • Ask the guest to remove ID from their wallet
    • Examine the ID in a well-lit area
    • Hold the ID in your own hands to see or feel if any changes have been made
Failure to Post Signage


…”No person shall sell or supply liquor or offer to sell or supply liquor from a prescribed premises unless,
(a) the premises prominently displays a warning sign containing the prescribed information that cautions women who are pregnant that the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy is the cause of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder…”
R.S.O. 1990, L.19,. Sections 30.130.2


  • Sandy’s Law is an amendment to the Liquor Licence Act that makes it an offence to sell or supply liquor unless a sign is displayed warning women that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

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 old, however, you must be at least 19 to legally drink alcohol.

Acceptable Forms of Identification (ID)
The only legally acceptable forms of identification are:

  • Ontario Driver’s Licence
  • Canadian Passport
  • Canadian Citizenship Card
  • Canadian Armed Forces Card
  • Bring Your Identfication (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 current and valid.

Hours of Alcohol Service

Liquor may be sold and served in Ontario during the following hours:

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.

Special Occasion Permit Events:

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

Please note: Serving hours remain the same on federal, provincial, and municipal election days.

Mandatory Signs

The Sandy’s Law sign, or the sign warning women about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, 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 Act.

Checking ID

Age Identification

Why check ID?

  • As a server it’s up to you to determine whether your guests are 19 years of age or older.
  • In Ontario it’s illegal for licensed establishments to serve alcohol to anyone under 19 years.
  • Serving alcohol to under-aged guests, besides being against the law, is an offence under the Liquor Licence Act (LLA) and can lead to charges by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and the police.
  • You and your establishment can be sued and /or fined. Your employer’s Liquor Licence can also be suspended or revoked.

When to check ID?

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

Acceptable ID

  • Valid provincial driver’s licence or out-of-province photo driver’s licence
  • 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 Card Act, 2008
  • Bring Your Identification (BYID) card issued by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario
  • Always ask for one or more pieces of government-issued photo ID
  • NEVER accept student cards or expired ID

How to check ID:

  • Examine in a well-lit area
  • Tilt the ID under light to see all of the reflective seals and holograms flash
  • Check the overall condition of the card – minors often use the expired license 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 check:

  • Does the person actually look old enough to be the person on the ID?
  • Does the ID 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 ID
  • Are the letters in the same font and same size of font?
  • Beware of misspelled words or disclaimers
  • Compare ID photo and description- height, weight, eye and hair colour are the most likely and easiest to change, pay attention to the shape and size of the facial features.
  • Ontario Drivers Licence picture is in black and white – consider checking other features such as: shape of face, cheek bone structure
  • Ontario Drivers Licence states height in cm-if not familiar with this unit of measurement – know your own height both in inches and cm for comparison
  • Keep on file a copy of a current legitimate ID available for comparison’s sake
  • In Ontario the health card can only be used as secondary piece of ID and can only be acceptable if offered
What to do when the Person & ID Aren’t a Real Match:

As a server, it is your right and responsibility to ask for additional ID if you have any concerns about the identification that has been presented to you. If you still have doubts about the validity of the ID 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? Your street address?
  • Ask the person to sign a blank sheet of paper and compare the signature to the one on the ID.
  • Again, pay attention to body language and behaviour

For more information about Acceptable forms of ID visit AGCO

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 trained.
  • Having a Smart Serve Incident Reporting Log on hand to record details of all guest incidents.
Reducing 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 has completed Smart Serve training.

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

The policies should include things like:

  • Guidelines on how to deal with aggressive, unruly and intoxicated guests
  • Not allowing staff/volunteers to drink on the job
  • Ensuring that staff/volunteers are of legal age to serve alcohol and are trained to deal with difficult situations
  • Providing for adequate guest-to-staff ratio – have enough staff on duty to ensure the safety of your customers
  • Dealing with under aged guests, including how to recognize and deal with false ID

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:


  • Make sure you understand the Liquor Licence Act and Regulations.
  • Create and enforce house polices that promote responsible service and moderate alcohol consumption.
  • Post your Liquor Sales Licence or Special Occasion Permit.
  • Ensure that staff/volunteers serving liquor are at least 18 years.
  • Assign a trained staff member (or professional security) to monitor the door.
  • Check the identification of people you suspect are under 19 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 completed the SMART SERVE program.
  • 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.
    Note: limit salty foods as they make people thirstier.
  • Close your bar well before the scheduled end of the party


  • Plan to have servers circulating around the room refilling people’s glasses. People often accept drinks they don’t really need.
  • 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 tickets to one guest.
  • Price alcohol too low since this will encourage heavy drinking.

Special Occasion Permits

In Ontario, a Special Occasion Permit is required whenever alcohol is sold or served anywhere other than in a house or a licensed establishment. Special Occasions requiring permits may include:

  • 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 DD’s 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