By Chet Greason
Recently, new legislation regarding special occasion permits, or temporary liquor licenses, has decreased the number of available licenses from nine to three. This, coupled by a vow from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) and the OPP to begin aggressively enforcing liquor laws already on the table, means that private events standard for this area, most significantly, buck and does, could undergo drastic changes.
Special occasion permits now fall under three categories: private, public, and industrial. Industrial permits are largely relegated to events such as winery tastings, while public events are able to advertise to the public and make revenue off of the sale of liquor, but must be organized by a registered charity or not-for-profit organization.
Meanwhile, private permits for events thrown by individuals or businesses, such as buck and does, are not allowed to advertise, not allowed to invite the public, and not allowed to make any money off of the sale of liquor. These rules may work for an event such as a wedding, but for a buck and doe, an event meant to raise money for a new family, it puts a significant damper on the party.
By including the rule regarding invitations to the public, should an event be inspected by an enforcement officer, a guest list must be provided. This means that every person attending must have their name appear on an official list.
On top of this, the AGCO is also cracking down on fundraising games seen as gambling, which is heavily regulated by the province. The rules call for the elimination of any game that is based purely on luck, such as raffles, draws, 50/50 tickets, and crown and anchor tables. However, games of skill are still allowed as fundraisers, such as toonie-tosses. It should be noted, though, that in a toonie-toss, it is illegal to give away bottles of liquor. Instead, participants can toss their coins at a bottle, and then recieve a gift certificate from the LCBO as a prize.
Effect on local community halls
Various local venues typically used for these sorts of events are going about the rule enforcement in different ways. South Huron has bypassed the provincial liquor laws by passing their own municipal laws to be enforced at their licensed community halls in Exeter. When someone rents a municipally owned hall in South Huron, they can advertise, invite the public, and profit from liquor sales. Municipal staff will serve drinks, provide security, and take in all the money; however, at the end of the night, after all expenses and HST are subtracted from the earnings, the township takes 50 per cent of revenue generated by the sale of alcohol.
According to Don MacLeod, CAO of the Township of Zorra, community halls owned by the municipality in Embro and Thamesford will continue being available for rent, with tenants required to obtain their own temporary liquor licences from the province, (meaning no advertising, no public, and no profits from liquor sales). MacLeod says that municipal governments that go the South Huron route run a greater risk of leaving themselves liable for revellers who leave the hall in a drunken state. “This way, the only responsibility we take on is in providing janitorial services,” he says.
The Optimist Hall in St. Pauls, owned and operated by the Downie Optimists, has opted for a similiar system.
The Kirkton-Woodham Community Centre is a rare situation. Jointly owned by both Perth South and South Huron municipalities, decisions regarding the hall are made by a board of volunteers. Rob Morley sits on this board, and says they are currently exploring options as to how to best run the hall under the new legislation. He adds that the current changes will have a large impact on how the hall is used.
“Buck and does will be affected most. They’re one of our key rentals in the summer,” he says, adding that both provincial and South Huron’s municipal options are on the table. “If there’s alcohol involved, you really only have two options,” he says.
Likewise, the Pyramid Recreation Centre discussed changes to their liquor SOPs at the Committee of the Whole meeting last night (Feb, 5). There, Stephanie Ische, Senior Director of Sport and Leisure for the Town of St. Marys, made the recommendation to adopt a system similar to that found in South Huron.
“As the PRC is a licenced establishment we fall under different guidelines and these (provincially mandated) rules do not apply to us,” reads the report. “Because of this differentiation, it is proposed that if a renter wishes to hold a licenced event at our location the PRC’s profits from alcohol sales will be shared with the SOP holders. This profit sharing will be based on the number of drinks sold during their event. Profit would only be shared with the renter after all expenses are paid. By offering this option both the renter and the facility will gain.
“From a liability standpoint, having our staff run the bar reduces the risk compared to having a family member or wedding party run it,” adds the report. “Our staff are trained on the laws, have no personal connection to the people attending and are working in the best interest of the Town.”
A third option?
The new legislation includes a loophole which allows for individuals or businesses who aren’t affiliated with a non-profit or charity to throw a public event, which would allow for all of the benefits found in the public special occasion permit.
“An individual or business may also apply for a Public Event (Special Occasion Permit) if organizing or conducting an event of:
- ‘provincial, national or international significance’, as agreed to by the Registrar of Alcohol and Gaming (the Registrar), or
- ‘municipal significance’ for which a municipal resolution or letter from the municipal clerk or designated authority which designates the event as one of municipal significance is required.”
In other words, should a council decide that an event carries “municipal significance”, it can pass a resolution that the event constitutes a public event. It stands to reason that events could be recognized by Council and granted this exception.
Meanwhile, unless the buck and doe is officially recognized by Council to be a municipally significant event, couples who wish to throw one can expect a severe reduction to the funds typically generated by this kind of event.