Sale and Service of Alcohol in Ontario

by Toronto Lawyer Karen Zvulony

Control of Alcohol in Ontario Service Establishments

Bars, restaurants, hotels, clubs and taverns require a liquor licence to sell and serve alcohol in Ontario.  Liquor licences may be obtained by making an application to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario regulates the sale, service and consumption of alcohol in Ontario.

Liquor licence holders must ensure that alcohol is served and sold in a reasonable manner. Liquor licence holders are obligated to comply with the regulations and requirements of the Liquor Licence Act. Failure to do so may result in charges under the Liquor Licence Act, a possible suspension of a liquor licence or a revocation of a liquor licence by the AGCO and the potential of costly civil liability under the common law.

Notice Of Proposal From The Alcohol And Gaming Commission Of Ontario

The AGCO may propose the suspension of a liquor licence for a specific period of time or that the licence be revoked entirely. They may also request that certain conditions be placed on the licence. This is done by issuing a Notice of Proposal to the licence holder which outlines the grounds for the proposed suspension or revocation.

Upon receiving a Notice of Proposal the liquor licence holder has the right to a hearing.  In order to obtain a hearing, the licence holder must request one within fifteen (15) days after receipt of the Notice of Proposal. Hearings before the Board of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (the Board) are quasi judicial proceedings; the licence holder (and/or their lawyer) and the lawyer for the Commission will each have the opportunity to present evidence and address the Board.

The suspension of a liquor licence for even a brief period of time can result in lost business, financial hardship and decreased revenue. Serving and selling alcohol is an important source of revenue for many bars, restaurants, clubs and taverns.  The suspension or revocation of a licence to sell and serve alcohol can seriously hinder an establishment’s ability to survive. If you are a liquor licence holder, it is important to understand your rights and obligations as a liquor licence holder and know what options are available to you if you have been served with a Notice of Proposal.

Offences under the Liquor Licence Act

If an establishment has received a Notice of Proposal from the AGCO, it also common to be charged with an offence under the Liquor Licence Act that arises out of the same set of circumstances.

If an establishment has been served with a summons, the establishment’s agent or lawyer must attend the Provincial Court location specified on the date indicated as a failure to do so may result in a conviction being entered against the establishment.

In order for an establishment to defend the case against you effectively, it is crucial that the establishment be provided with full and complete disclosure of the evidence against it. Disclosure typically includes such things as police officer’s notes and witness statements and outlines the evidence against the accused. At times, the disclosure provided is incomplete and is missing crucial information. It is crucial that any disclosure that is provided be carefully reviewed, and, if necessary, any items that are missing be  promptly requested.   Establishment’s have a legal right to full and complete disclosure of the evidence against them.

The Liquor Licence Act, places specific duties on licence holder as a condition of the licence and governs such things as how, where, and to whom alcohol can be served and sold. For example, it makes it an offence to serve minors or individuals who appear to be drunk. It is essential that liquor licence holders have policies in place to ensure compliance with the Liquor Licence Act and to ensure that these policies are in fact practiced.

If convicted for an offence under the Liquor Licence Act an individual could face a fine of up to $100,000.00 and up to one year imprisonment. A corporation found guilty may be fined up to $250,000.00

We Can Help

If you or your corporation has been charged with an liquor license offence, then feel free to fill out the Consult a Toronto Liquor Licence Lawyer Form or feel free to contact Toronto Liquor License Lawyer Karen Zvulony for a confidential, no strings attached, consultation about your case.