How to Get a Liquor License in Ontario

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To get an alcohol license in Ontario, apply to the province's Alcohol and Gaming Commission. You can't just ask for a license, and then open a bar. You have to already own the business to make an AGCO liquor license application. You'll also need local government agencies and the neighbors around your business to give you a thumbs-up.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

Fill out the AGCO forms on the commission's website, and submit with the fees. AGCO may ask for public comment from the neighborhood, so you'll have to resolve any objections. You'll also have to meet any local requirements for licensing or health and safety.

Apply for an Alcohol License in Ontario

To obtain your liquor license in Ontario, you can either buy a business with an existing license or take out a new one. Either way, you'll need the Alcohol and Gaming Commission's approval. Fill out the AGCO forms available on the commission website, then submit them along with the required fees.

AGCO reviews applications based on the risk the licensee might pose to public safety. The reviewer looks at your past conduct, integrity, financial responsibility and training in the industry. The location of your business and how it operates plays a role, too. You and your business partners may have to undergo background checks and financial audits before AGCO agrees to grant a license. If AGCO thinks you might ignore the liquor laws, for example, it can set conditions on your license.

Ask for Feedback

If you want to sell booze at a specific location where no alcohol has been sold in the past six months, AGCO will issue a public notice and ask for feedback. Neighboring business owners or homeowners can weigh in on whether they think liquor sales would be a problem and why. AGCO sometimes asks for feedback in certain situations even with an existing license:

  • You want to sell alcohol outdoors, such as on a patio.
  • You want to increase the establishment's capacity by more than 25 percent.
  • You've been operating with conditions attached and want them removed.

If neighbors object to your getting an alcohol license, AGCO can insist you resolve all objections before you're approved.

Get an Inspection

You'll actually need multiple inspections to receive your license. AGCO visits your premises to confirm that they like the plans you submitted and that everything meets the commission's standards. You'll also need to contact your community's fire, building and health departments to arrange for their inspections. If your building doesn't meet the local fire code, for example, AGCO will not grant the liquor license.

Local governments have other standards you'll have to meet. If the location isn't zoned to allow alcohol sales, you won't be able to operate your business. Depending on the type of establishment you want to open, you may have to apply for a city business license. Toronto, for example, requires restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs to take out a license from city government.

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About the Author

Fraser Sherman has written about every aspect of business: how to start one, how to keep one in the black, the best business structure, the details of financial statements. He's also run a couple of small businesses of his own. He lives in Durham NC with his awesome wife and two wonderful dogs. His website is frasersherman.com

Photo Credits

  • Jose Barrera/Hemera/Getty Images