If you are the proprietor of a business that holds a license to sell or serve liquor, you are subject to the Liquor License Act. If you are deemed to have violated this act in some way, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) may seek to charge you with a regulatory offence.
Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO): Investigating Liquor License Act Incidents
If you are deemed to have violated the Liquor License Act (LLA), you may receive a Notice of Incident from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario. This is essentially an informational letter informing you that a violation of the Liquor License Act had been reported and is being investigated further. The note will inform you that the Deputy Registrar of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario is considering the incident and will consider any information you wish to provide in your defence.
This is a good time to consider consulting with a lawyer. You should do so before sending any information to the AGCO. You do not know if the information you are sending may actually hurt your case and implicate you further. Obviously this is the last thing you would want to do; consult with a lawyer first. (Many lawyers such as those at our firm will have this conversation with you for free; take advantage of this resource.)
Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario: Inspection Reports
Along with the incident notice, you will likely receive from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission an inspection report. This represents the details of the allegations made against your business. It will include the listed violations of the Liquor License Act that are alleged as well as the detailed notes of the inspector. This is essentially the case against you.
A lawyer knowledgeable in the Liquor License Act in experienced in litigation generally can help identifies the weaknesses in the case against you and defences available to you.
Penalties for Violations of the Liquor License Act
Upon the completion of its investigation, the Deputy Registrar of the ACGO will issue one of the following decisions:
a) Taking no further action;
b) Issuing a written warning;
c) Imposing an Order of Monetary Penalty;
d) Issuing a Notice of Proposal to attach conditions to a license;
e) Issuing a Notice of Proposal to suspend the license or to revoke the license;
f) Designating the license holder and/or premises for purposes of risk-based licensing and imposing conditions.
Obviously the first option is the desired outcome and the decisions get progressively worse from there.
Needless to say, the implications of an alleged violation range from non-affective to completely ruinous of the operation of your business. The next step after you get the initial incident notice may be a decision of suspension of your liquor license. This is why it is so important to proceed with caution and consult a lawyer.
License Appeal Tribunal: Appealing Decisions of Liquor License Act Violations
The License Appeal Tribunal is the administrative body before which one can appeal any of the following: a Notice of Proposal, an Order of Monetary Penalty, or a Notice of Proposed Order.
If you lose this appeal, there may be an opportunity to appeal the decision of the tribunal, before the courts.
Hiring a Lawyer to Assist with your Alleged Liquor License Act Violation
Do not wait until a decision has been rendered and you need to appeal that decision to consult with a lawyer.
If you are alleged to have violated the Liquor License Act, be sure that you are now pitted against a team of professionals who do not have your best interest in mind. For example, the Deputy Registrar’s incident notice invites you to provide them with information with respect to the alleged incident. Most people are familiar with the “right to remain silent” in the criminal context; this right exists in the Liquor License Violation context as well. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario would love for you to implicate yourself further by proving information to them that you may think helps your case but in fact helps the AGCO take away your license to serve alcohol.
As it says right in the incident notice: “Please note that any information, materials and comments that you provide may be used as evidence against you in any hearing of a proposal to suspend, revoke or impose conditions or of an appeal of a monetary penalty. Therefore you may want to consult with your lawyer or paralegal before responding to this letter.”
You have the right to have a lawyer. If your business relies on your ability to serve alcohol, allegations of a violation are a very serious threat to your livelihood. This is a legal matter and it would be unnecessarily reckless to try and navigate the process without the help of a legal professional.
Call us at 416-999-8389 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultationJordan Gold Barrister and Solicitor ROBICHAUD’S