If you’ve opened a business licensed to sell liquor in BC and are now considering an Ontario liquor licence application, the following overview describes the differences in the application process in the two provinces. As you’ll see, licence types, criteria and application steps can be a little confusing. Hiring an expert Ontario liquor licence consultant, such as Rising Tide Consultants, will ensure the best chance of a successful application.

BC vs. Ontario Liquor Licence Application Process

Ontario’s Liquor Licence Act and Liquor Control Act are administered by The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), previously known as the”Liquor Licence Board of Ontario”. Some outside Ontario may confuse the AGCO with the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). The LCBO is a provincial Crown corporation responsible for the sale and distribution of alcohol in the province, and is not responsible for the administration of Ontario liquor laws.

Applying for a liquor licence in Ontario has some similarities to BC’s process. There are, however, significant differences in how the two provinces regulate and control liquor sales. Both provinces perform background checks, premise inspections, and require staff who handle liquor to be trained and certified. Licence types, terms, and conditions, however, are quite different.

For example, the AGCO requires a six-month community notification process to gather responses from neighbouring businesses and residents to any proposed pub or restaurant. BC requires public notification for new liquor primaries (i.e. pubs). The applicant must then submit a request to local government to pass a resolution in council that the proposed liquor primary is permitted and that there is no negative impact on the local community.

When assessing each Ontario liquor licence proposal, Ontario’s Registrar performs a risk assessment review of each applicant licensee, and may require completion of a plan to address one or more potential risks. The AGCO provides online guides to help licensees prepare the plans, which may include any of the following:

  • Safety and Security Plan
  • Compliance Plan
  • Nuisance Mitigation Plan
  • Patron Control Plan
  • Management Control Plan

The following is a list of liquor licences and permits issued under the BC Liquor Control and Licensing Branch and Ontario’s Registrar of Alcohol and Gaming.

Restaurants and Pubs

For selling liquor by the glass in restaurants, BC issues a Food-Primary Licence. Liquor Primary Licences are issued for selling liquor by the glass at pubs, bars, lounges, and nightclubs.

In Ontario, restaurants, bars and clubs are all licensed under the Liquor Sales Licence, which is not restricted as to business type. The AGCO then can issue further endorsements on the license to accommodate businesses such as mini bar, catering, or a Brew Pub.

Mini Bar, Catering, Special Occasions

BC Catering Licences are available on their own, or as an endorsement on a license for businesses that provide full food and beverage services to their customers at events. Special Occasion Licences are issued for individuals and groups holding special events, such as community celebrations, weddings, banquets and other gatherings. For hotels to obtain a mini bar approval in BC this is an endorsement on a Liquor Primary license.

Ontario requires either a Mini Bar Licence for dispensing liquor at overnight rentals, or a Special Occasion Permit, which regulates liquor sales at all types of special events, whether or not they are catered.

License to Represent a Manufacturer

BC requires Agent Licences for independent liquor agents who market products from a variety of liquor manufacturers, and BC liquor manufacturers who want to sell their products off-site. This essentially serves the same purpose as Ontario’s Liquor Sales Licence.

Liquor Manufacturers

To make liquor at a winery, brewery, or distillery, BC requires a Manufacturer’s Licence. Manufacturers can make additional applications to add a lounge, special event area, tour area and/or picnic area sales to the licence. BC also issues UBrew/UVin (Ferment-on-Premises) Licences for businesses that sell the ingredients, equipment, and advice their customers need to make beer, wine, or cider.

In Ontario, A Ferment on Premise Facility Licence permits operation of a facility where equipment for making beer or wine is made available to customers on the premises. An Ontario Liquor Manufacturer’s Licence allows a liquor manufacturer to sell wine, beer, or spirits to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.

Retail Sales and Grocery Stores, Liquor Delivery Services

To sell liquor by the bottle, BC retailers and grocery stores (also called Private Liquor Stores) need to acquire a Liquor (Licensee) Retail Store Licence. These licenses are under a moratorium until 2022 and cannot be applied for at the LCLB. BC also has Independent Wine Store Licences and BC VQA Licenses. There are only a small number of these license types as well, and they too cannot be applied for at the LCLB. Manufactures are allowed to apply for a retail endorsement on their manufacturing license if they wish to retail their product on site.

Ontario regulates wineries and distilleries liquor retail sales within its Licence to Represent a Manufacturer. In 2015, the Ontario government announced plans to allow the sale of beer in grocery stores with a new Beer Sales in Grocery Stores permit. This permit will only apply to 450 stores across the province.

Receive a Professional Ontario Liquor Licensing Consultation

Getting a liquor licence in Ontario requires an understanding of Ontario liquor laws, eligibility criteria and a licensee’s obligations. Rising Tide Consultants helps businesses seeking liquor licences increase the likelihood of a successful application. Contact us if you have questions about our Ontario liquor licensing consultation services.

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