Big changes to Ontario liquor laws

Last week, I reviewed the basics of liquor licensing.  Right around that time, the Ontario government announced changes to the provincial liquor laws that will take effect June 1.  Many of these changes will be extremely relevant to franchised businesses in Ontario that hold valid liquor licences. Those include:

  • Bars and restaurants will now be able to offer free drinks to customers who are celebrating special occasions
  • Servers will be permitted to carry drinks on to sidewalks to reach licensed areas of the premises
  • Festivals and events can designate larger areas beyond cramped beer tents for customers to move around while holding alcoholic beverages 

Other changes to the liquor laws that have less of an impact on traditional restaurants and bars (franchised or not) include:

  • Special events, including weddings and fundraisers, will be able to serve alcohol until 2:00 a.m. — a one-hour extension.
  • All-inclusive holiday packages, including alcohol, will be permitted to be offered

These developments represent an effort by the Ontario government to keep current with customer and business needs, demands and expectations, and will be in place just in time for the start of Ontario’s patio season. The government underwent a six-week consultation process and determined that the industry was strongly in favour of a modernization of liquor laws.  The provincial government is also hopeful these changes to the law will result in an increase to Ontario’s tourism industry.

Of course, with modernization comes more stringent enforcement.  Failure to comply with the new provincial liquor laws will result in bigger fines than were previously imposed.