Liquor Licence Act | Permit Drunkenness or Intoxication

Intoxicated Patrons in a Bar | An Offence

It is an offence under Ontario’s Liquor Licence Act for an establishment (bar, restaurant, or any establishment with a liquor licence) to have intoxicated customers on the premises.


The licensee 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 45.1.


Prevent and Deter Drunkenness | How to Protect Your Business

The onus is on licensee to prevent and deter drunkenness.


Wilful blindness is not a defence. It is not enough for the licensee to say that the establishment was too packed or too busy that evening. It is not enough for them to say that they simply did not see the intoxicated patron.


There is no due diligence defence. It is not enough for the licensee to show that they have preventative measures in place to monitor intoxicated patrons.


As per the Alcohol and Gambling Commission of Ontario, a Licensee must be proactive and maintain control of its patrons. Are there measures in place? Was security or other staff making rounds or checks in the establishment to ensure there were no intoxicated patrons? How frequent were these checks?


The Licensee Ought to Have Known

While having an intoxicated customer on the premises is not enough, the Tribunal will ask if the licensee ought tohave known that the patron was drunk.


A patron who was talking loudly to other patrons is not enough to prove intoxication. Furthermore, case law has shown that evidence such as staggering, swaying and unable to walk a straight line is insufficient to conclude that the staff ought to?have known that the patron was intoxicated.


The Tribunal will want to know 1) how long the patron was in the establishment, 2) recollection of how much the patron had to drink, 3) indicia of impairment, including swaying, glassy eyes, slurred speech, steadying one’s self on a chair or stool, falling over, unable to stay upright 4) patron’s behaviour and whether it attracted the attention of the bartenders.


Does It Matter How Much Alcohol Was Served?

According to case law, it does not matter how much alcohol was served to the patron. The licensee cannot permit drunkenness on its premises.


How to Prove Intoxication?

The Tribunal will inquire if the inspector observed the patron consume alcohol.


Staggering, difficulty standing or walking in a straight line, slurred speech, and the smell of alcohol on one’s breath is enough to prove intoxication.


Other Indicia of Impairment:

  • Inappropriate speech volume (was the person shouting)
  • Motor control: hand -eye coordination, fumbling
  • Pace of speech: speaking very slow or fast
  • Decreased alertness: Taking longer to respond to questions or react to events
  • Inappropriate sweating
  • Red eyes
  • Poor enunciation or slurring of words
  • Noticeably shallow breathing: Was the patron’s breathe noticeably slower or shallower than others?
  • Tiredness: Alcohol is a depressant. Intoxicated patrons may show signs of being tired or sleepy. Heavy eyelids, placid or fixed gaze.


What About Medical Conditions?

Even if the patron had a medical condition, it is up to the board to determine if the drunken condition on a balance of probabilities was the result of alcohol and not the medication or illness.


Even if the patron has a walking condition (due to disability or injury), it will be up to board to determine if the indicia of impairment were the result of intoxication, disability, or both.


How Will the Tribunal Assess Evidence?

The Tribunal will assess whether the evidence that the inspector gave is clear, straightforward and provides an honest recollection of the events that night.


Patrons should know when asked exactly how much he/she drank. This will affect credibility.


Licensee or staff must be clear about the time of the Inspector’s visit. Recollection cannot be vague.


Whether to Appeal Your Infractions?

It is important to remember that multiple infractions may lead to alcohol suspensions. In some cases, the Tribunal may revoke the licensee’s alcohol licence. Always contact JKPC before making any decision.