Get an Ontario Liquor Licence
If you’re planning to open a bar or restaurant, nightclub or bar in Ontario, Canada, then you will need to obtain a liquor sales license before you can start serving drinks. Getting a liquor license isn’t always straightforward – there are many rules and regulations that must be followed in order to do so successfully. In this article, we will explore the process of obtaining a liquor license in Ontario, Canada. We’ll provide tips on how to navigate the application process as well as what steps to take once your application is approved. Read on to learn more!
In Ontario, the Liquor Licence and Control Act (LCCA) is the primary legislation that governs the alcohol industry.
The LCCA was first enacted in 1927 and has been amended several times since then. The latest version of the Act came into force on April 1, 2016. The LCCA sets out the rules and regulations for the manufacture, importation, sale, supply, possession, and consumption of liquor in Ontario.
Why Do You Need A Liquor Sales License In Ontario?
In Ontario, you need a liquor license if you want to:
- Sell or serve alcohol in a bar, restaurant, or another public place
- Buy alcohol for resale from an authorized manufacturer or importer
- Make alcohol for sale (e.g., brewing beer or winemaking)
- Run a special event where alcohol will be served (e.g., a wedding reception or private party)
If you’re not sure whether you need a liquor license, you can contact the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) or our law office.
Types of Liquor Licenses in Ontario
There are different types of liquor licenses in Ontario, Canada. Each type of license has its own set of rules and regulations. The most common types of liquor licenses are:
- The Special Occasion Permit (SOP): This permit allows you to serve alcohol at a special event such as a wedding or a private party. You can apply for this permit online or in person at your local AGCO store.
- Liquor Sales License: A liquor sales license allows you to sell alcohol at your place of business, such as a bar or restaurant.
- Manufacturer’s License: A manufacturer’s license allows you to produce and sell alcohol, such as beer or spirits, at your place of business.
- Special Occasion License: A special occasion license allows you to hold a public event at which alcohol is served, such as a concert or festival.
There are numerous “specialized” licenses available as well, such as:
- Mini-bar licenses
- Golf-course endorsements
- Caterer endorsements
Guide to Getting a Liquor Sales Licence in Ontario
The Guide is adapted from the Liquor Sales Licence Guide put out by the AGCO themselves.
Selling and distributing alcohol in Ontario, Canada is governed by regulations and laws such as the Liquor Licence and Control Act, 2019 (LLCA). LLCA is administered by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO).
The AGCO decides which establishments can offer on-site consumption of liquor to the public. They also carry out inspections the premise, making sure it is safe for the public to drink such as restaurants, lounges, bars, and nightclubs.
What are the different types of liquor sales licence that will allow you to serve liquor to customers? – The Liquor Sales Licence and Mini Bar Licence.
How can you apply for any of these licensees? Here is a guide that will help you get a licence in selling and serving liquor in your area, including for a Tied House and a Mini Bar.
Liquor Licence Application Ontario Rules
Duties and Responsibilities of a Licensed Liquor Sales Holder
All of your responsibilities as a licensed liquor sales holder can be found in the Liquor Licence and Control Act, 2019. You can also find here all the regulations and rules set by the Registrar.
You have to check with your local municipality to see if your location is deemed fit for your business. If your local municipality permits your use at a location, then you can proceed with your Liquor Sales Licence application.
Notice to the Public
You must provide a notice to the public if you are a new applicant for a Liquor Sales Licence.
This is done through a placard. The placard will be sent to you via email for you to print out. This poster or placard must be put up for a specific number of days at your location. It should be exposed and is easy to be seen by people passing by.
The AGCO publishes the public notice via its online services portal, iAGCO. This makes the public notice easier to view and be reviewed by anyone visiting the AGCO website. The notice will be posted for a specific time and is searchable via the search tab.
Public objections received by AGCO need to be reviewed and responded to before proceeding with the application as well. You will be notified if there are any objections regarding your application.
Training for a Responsible Liquor Sale, Service, and Delivery
Liquor regulation is guided by standards, and licensees are required to follow these standards, known as the Interim Standards. To ensure that all licensees will follow such standards, they are expected to complete Smart Serve training provided and approved by the AGCO Board. This certification applies to:
- Individuals who are in sales including delivery of liquor, those who are in the sampling business and those services include offering liquor to customers.
- Individuals that are working as security personnel in places where liquor is being sold or served.
- Individuals whose business involves selling or serving liquor such as vending machine and cart operators or those who are serving liquors in a golf course
For more information, visit AGCO’s page to know more about Responsible Liquor Sale, Service and Delivery, and Training.
- The application for a Liquor Sale Licence is not free. For the applicable fee, check it here.
- You can make payments online as long as you have a Visa, MasterCard, Visa Debit, MasterCard Debit, or Interac Online.
- When using iAGCO online, you cannot use cash or cheque for payment. If you have to make a payment of $30,000 or more, you have to use a wire transfer or use electronic funds to settle the payment.
- Application is only processed once payment is received and verified by AGCO.
- Refund is not allowed once payment is completed.
Type of Location
In the application, the applicant must identify the type of location where the business will be located. To know the type of premise you have, check the list provided by AGCO.
Tell nothing but the truth. Everything you write in your application will be verified. Omitting or providing false information in your application can lead to licence application refusals.
AGCO has the right to reject, suspend or revoke your Liquor Sales Licence due to providing incorrect or incomplete information, omission of facts or documents or lying in your application. Not notifying the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario about any changes in your application can also give AGCO the right to reject your application.
We also assist individuals and businesses charged with liquor or alcohol offences
Charged With a Liquor Offence? Need a Liquor Charges Lawyer?
Have you been charged with an offence in Ontario under the Liquor Licence and Control Act? Have you received a summons to appear for such an offence? These offences are pursued under the Provincial Offences Act and can be a serious impediment to your livelihood and your liquor licence. If you are faced with such an offence, call our law office today.
Our Liquor Offence Lawyers can help you fight any alcohol-related charges you are faced with. Your defence could include procedural or Charter arguments.
Are you looking to serve alcohol at a private or public event? We can assist with AGCO Special Occasion Permits.
Get a Special Occasion Permit for Liquor in Ontario
According to the AGCO, the Special Occasion Permit (SOP) program, allows for the sale and service of liquor on special occasions, such as cash bars at weddings or private receptions, as well as larger scale events that are open to the public, such as charity fundraiser
An SOP is required “any time liquor is offered for sale anywhere other than in a liquor licensed establishment.”
You must first determine whether you are a private event (ie limited to invited guests only and may not be publicly advertised) or a public event (which is open to the public and can be advertised.)
Harrison Jordan law can help you obtain an Ontario Special Occasion Permit.
Get a Liquor Delivery Licence in Ontario
We have a great article that summarizes the process to apply for and obtain a liquor delivery licence in Ontario. Click on the link to read it.
We provide a wide range of liquor licensing services:
Liquor Licence Lawyer
Including New, Renewals, Transfers, Extension of Hours Applications, Special Occasion Permits, Caterers Endorsements.
Liquor Offences, Charges and Appeals
Including Provincial Liquor Charges and Appeals under Liquor Licence and Control Act.
Liaise with AGCO
Including Communication with AGCO on licensing matters
Excise Duty / Excise Act Matters
On Spirits, Beer and more.
How much does a liquor licence in Ontario cost?
This depends on whether you are applying for a new licence, a licence renewal or a transfer. A new liquor licence has a fee of $1,055 for two years or $1,355 for four years. These fees are determined by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO)
How do you get a liquor licence in Ontario?
In order to get a liquor licence in Ontario, you must first determine whether you are applying on behalf of a person or a corporation. From there, know that the applicant must fill out an extensive application package with the AGCO that includes a questionnaire related to honesty and integrity. The AGCO also requires that you send in a relevant floor plan and obtain letters from local governmental agencies.
Do you need a liquor licence for a private event in Ontario?
This depends. If you are hosting an event at the “private place” with invited guests only and no sales of alcohol (just serving), you do not need to get a Special Occasion Permit. Consult a lawyer to determine whether your event is deemed to take place in a “private place.” Otherwise, your private event likely requires you to obtain a Special Occasion Permit. The fee associated with one depends on whether you are selling alcohol or just serving it.
How long does it take to get a liquor license in Ontario?
It typically takes approximately 3 months to get your liquor licence approved by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, but you need to make sure your application is prepared correctly and that all required documents have been submitted – otherwise there could be delays. As the AGCO reviews the application, if they find information they believes warrant further attention or investigation, your application may be delayed.
You deserve a dependable and reliable lawyer on your side for liquor licensing matters. Harrison Jordan is a Toronto-based lawyer assisting business with their liquor licensing needs, including AGCO matters and applications for AGCO Liquor Selling Licences. Call him at +1 647 371 0032 or email him today. He’ll get back to you as soon as he can.