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Let’s make liquor laws an election issue

June 9th, 2011 · 2 Comments

By Emina Gamulin

A recent immigrant just got a job in Toronto and wants to celebrate. She walks into a convenience store and looks for some beer. Unable to find any, she asks the clerk behind the counter where she might find some. “We don’t sell beer here.”

Confused, she walks out and spots a bar nearby. She greets the bartender, and orders six Coronas.


“Yes, six.”

“Are you waiting for friends?”

“No. They are all for me.”

“I can only serve you one at a time,” says the bartender, bottle opener in hand. “I’ll keep the rest in the fridge for now.”

“No, don’t open it! I’m not drinking them here, I’m taking them back to my apartment.”

After getting an explanation that this is illegal, the young woman leaves the bar in search of something called a “Beer Store,” more confused than ever.

Barring Islamic states, Ontario has some of the strictest liquor laws in the world, baffling to the majority of newcomers and tourists who come to our city.

On June 1, new provincial liquor regulations were passed, relaxing these stringent laws. Weddings can now serve guests until 2 a.m., servers will be able to carry alcoholic beverages between licensed areas, and drinkers at festivals will no longer be cordoned off to special tents. Bartenders who want to give you a free drink on your birthday (already common practise) will now have the law on their side.

While these changes are a step in the right direction, they also point to how much more we as a society need to grow up when it comes to drinking.

The Gleaner would like to see a community where people can buy beer at the convenience store, a couple can enjoy a bottle of chardonnay at Christie Pits, and bartenders can knock back a well-deserved cold one after finishing their shift. We would like to see neighbourhoods where entrepreneurs do not have to pretend that they are opening up a restaurant to get licensed, and the AGCO is made up, at least partially, of people with know-how around drinking culture.

If this sounds like the beginnings of the destruction of our social fabric, it is only because we have been conditioned to believe so. Ontario liquor laws, at various points in the last century, have seen everything from the outright ban of liquor, to more “relaxed” rules formed as a result of the lingering temperance movement in the province. The LCBO was created after prohibition was overturned and was given a mandate to know “exactly who is drinking and how much.” As late as 1962, people were required to fill out cards when they went to the liquor store (those deemed as buying too frequently would get blackballed), and women were not allowed to drink in the presence of unmarried men.

While Puritan values have loosened their stranglehold on other aspects of our society, their fingerprints can still be seen all over our current booze laws.

Those who are unconvinced need only look at examples from all over the world that show no correlation between relaxed alcohol laws and drinking problems. For example, in the overwhelming majority of Europe, drinking ages are lower (only Iceland’s is higher), last calls, if they do exist, are much later, and drinking in the street is perfectly acceptable. The public drunkenness one might expect to see because of permissive drinking laws rarely shows its face, as it is controlled via social mores.

We have four months until the provincial election. The Gleaner encourages you to tell your candidates what kind of liquor laws you want. Lets finally put the Puritan age behind us.

Tags: Editorial

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Steve Lafleur // Jun 9, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    As someone who has travelled extensively in the United States, it’s always a culture shock coming back to Ontario. You can buy the same low quality beer you’re legally required to shell out $1.07 in Ontario for $.035 in upstate New York. Clubs can stay open till 4am in Pittsburgh. You can drink on the Long Island Rail Road, or at Penn Station in New York. Yet the world doesn’t end.

  • 2 JEM // Jun 9, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    AMEN to this post. I think people (namely overbearing parents) need to realize that no matter how hard you try to protect your children, life will get them one day. Instill a social conscience at a young age and they’ll reap the benefits for the rest of their lives. :)