There may be times where you will want to serve and sell alcohol at your performing arts event or show. In Ontario, a SOP is required any time alcohol is offered for sale or served anywhere other than in a licensed establishment (such as a bar or restaurant) or a private place (such as a private office or home). You must have a Special Occasion Permit (SOP) issued from the LCBO in order to legally serve alcohol at your event.
A Special Occasion Permit allows for the sale and service of alcohol 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 fundraisers.
Of the three types of SOP's, you will most likely be applying for a Public Event Permit: events that are open to the public. Public events can be advertised and allow for fundraising/profit from the sale of alcohol.
The permit holder, designate or responsible person(s) must be present throughout the SOP event.
More Info on SOP's and the different types of permits can be found here
Online via the AGCO website
(As of April 1 2018, the LCBO will no longer accept or process applications for SOPs. All applications must be made online through the iAGCO portal.)
- For Indoor Events, the application must be submitted at least 30 days prior to the event.
- For Outdoor Events, the local municipal clerk’s department, police, fire and health department must be given written notice 30 days before the event when expecting fewer than 5,000 people per day. If expecting 5,000 people or more per day, a notice to the same group is required at least 60 days prior to the event. If there is a tent, marquee, pavilion or tiered seating being used, then the local building department must be notified in writing.
There is a cost associated with applying for and having a SOP. Your event will be categorized in one of two ways which will determine how much the SOP will cost. All application fees are non-refundable.
- “NO SALE” SOP (If you are NOT selling alcohol at your event, but are just serving it.)
- $35 per day, from April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019;
- $45 per day, from April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020;
- $50 per day, from April 1, 2020 onwards.
- “SALE” SOP (If you are selling alcohol at your event.)
As of April 1, 2018, the fee for “Sale” permits will increase to $150 per each day of the event.
All alcohol must be purchased in Ontario through a government store or a store authorized under clause 3(1)(e) of the Liquor Control Act. These include any LCBO store, LCBO Agency store, The Beer Store, or any authorized manufacturer’s retail store.
Applicants should contact the Canada Revenue Agency for information concerning any collection of Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) or other obligations they may have relating to the HST and the sale of alcohol under the permit.
If you are a registered charity or not-for-profit orgnaization/association, you can sell alcohol that has been donated for the event by manufacturers of alcohol. Donated alcohol must be processed by a government store (LCBO store, LCBO Agency store, The Beer Store or authorized manufacturer’s retail store) under the permit. In this case, you must have the permit before accepting a donation, as it will be processed under your permit. Hang onto your receipts/invoices, because these must be made available for inspection by an AGCO Inspector or a police officer upon request.
If a multiple day event permit is issued, the permit holder may store alcohol that is sold under the permit between event dates if the permit holder:
- Identifies on the application the location where the alcohol is to be stored;
- Stores the alcohol in a secure area that is not a dwelling;
- Ensures that the alcohol is stored separately from other alcohol not sold under the permit;
- Provides the AGCO with a list of persons with access to the location; and
- Ensures that the alcohol is made available to AGCO Inspectors and police officers for inspection upon request.
When serving alcohol at an event, you must have a server who will be the designated, responsible person serving your guests and patrons and also who will help control the serving and distribution of the alcohol. This designated person is also responsible for checking ID’s, avoiding violations (these include, but are not limited to drunkenness/violent and disorderly conduct, selling liquor to a visibly intoxicated person, permitting drugs, removing liquor from premises).
Provincial regulations do not require SOP holders to have Smart Serve training. However, it may be a condition of the venue you are using. Please check with the venue's management to confirm.
When an SOP is required, you are legally allowed to sell alcohol between the following hours only:
- Monday - Sunday: 11am - 2am
- New Years Eve (December 31): 11am - 3am
For a complete list of violations and lawful conduct while serving alcohol, as well as other important information regarding legalities around SOP’s and alcohol service, visit Smart Serve.
Read the November 2017 SOP Application Guide online here
(*) This information was gathered from the LCBO, AGCO and SmartServe and has been updated as of May 19, 2018.