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Next Steps in the Modernization of Quebec’s Liquor Permit Regime

Fasken
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Overview

Agribusiness, Food & Beverage Bulletin

Quebec continues to move the reform of its liquor permit regime forward with the coming into force of new statutory provisions and regulations. The stated intent of the reform is to simplify Quebec’s liquor permit regime while promoting responsible consumption of alcohol.

The new provisions are aimed at easing the province’s liquor laws and making it simpler to acquire permits by offering businesses selling alcohol greater flexibility, notably, by creating new categories of permits and new options for permit holders.

The new provisions are the latest steps in a process that the government of Quebec set in motion in June 2018 with the adoption of Bill 170. Some of the bill’s provisions came into effect immediately or shortly thereafter, for example, those that provide greater flexibility around permit holders’ opening hours, however, other provisions of the law only came into effect more recently.

In particular, on August 5, 2021, the Regulation Respecting the Regime Applicable to Liquor Permits (the “Regulation”; French only), which provides the details of the requirements regarding the new liquor permit regime, came into force. 

New Accessory Permits

  • Accessory permits are now available to businesses that wish to serve alcohol as a secondary activity. According to the website of the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux (the “Liquor Board”), this may include businesses such as museums, spas and funeral homes.
  • The holder of such a permit may serve alcohol in designated areas as part of social, sporting, cultural, or other events between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m., though where the business’ main activity is that of a bar or restaurant, the business must still seek a bar or restaurant permit.

Options for On-Premise Consumption Permit Holder

Certain categories of liquor permits for on-premise consumption can now be issued with “options,” namely the “service,” “no minors” and “caterer” options.[1]

The Service Option

Restaurant sales permits and restaurant service permits, which were previously issued pursuant to section 28 and section 28.1, respectively, of the Act respecting liquor permits have been replaced by a single permit, i.e., the “restaurant permit,” as provided for in section 28 of Bill 170.

The “bring your own alcohol” model to allow patrons to bring their own beer and wine lives on in the form of an option, which can be attached to the restaurant permit, i.e., as the service option. Holders of a restaurant permit with the service option may serve such beverages to patrons and allow patrons to leave the premises with such beverages, provided that alcoholic beverages are not also sold on the same premises. The service option is also available to holders of accessory permits. Whether it be for a restaurant permit or an accessory permit, the service option must be requested in the appropriate section of the Liquor Board’s application form.

The Caterer Option

Restaurant permit holders may now request that a caterer option be attached to their permit, allowing them to sell alcoholic beverages at the location where they are serving food. In fact, restaurant permit holders may opt not to serve food on their own premises at all and perform catering activities exclusively. If they choose to do so, they must inform the Liquor Board of where they intend to store their alcoholic beverages.

Furthermore, access to catered events must be controlled, and the caterer must remain on the premises until all of the alcoholic beverages sold have been consumed or removed from the premises in accordance with the Regulation.

At the end of the event, the caterer must ensure that all containers of alcoholic beverages are handled in accordance with the Regulation, i.e.:

  • Unopened containers must be returned to the caterer’s facilities;
  • Clients may bring opened containers of wine home, provided that they are sealed; and
  • Any beer, wine or cider left on the premises after the food service and whose container has been opened must be disposed of, though open containers of alcohol and spirits may be returned to the caterer’s facility.

The No Minors Option

A no minors option is available to all holders of permits that authorize the sale or service of alcoholic beverages on-site, e.g., restaurant, bar, club and accessory permit holders.  It is mandatory for businesses that present adult-oriented entertainment. It entails an obligation to ensure that minors are not allowed on site.

Clarifications Respecting Alcohol Service by Restaurants

The Regulation clarifies what establishments may qualify as a restaurant for the purposes of liquor permits, i.e., those that have the equipment necessary to prepare food, as well as a space where food can be sold and served. However, if the restaurant only offers catering services, it need not have its own dining area. There are no requirements respecting the complexity of the preparation, suggesting that only a minimal effort is required for food preparation.

The Regulation further clarifies the circumstances under which a restaurant may serve alcohol to patrons who are not also consuming food:

  • Alcohol can only be served at times when the food preparation facilities are operational and when the preparation and service staff are present.
  • If a patron has been admitted into the restaurant while food is being served that patron may be sold and served alcoholic beverages including after food is no longer actually served (provided, as stated above, that the facilities are operational and the staff is present at that time).
  • However, a patron admitted to the restaurant after food service has ceased may not be sold or served alcoholic beverages.

Common Areas of Hotels and Inns

Hotels and inns may now request that their liquor permits allow the consumption of alcoholic beverages in common areas, such as swimming pools or lounges. However, the permit holder must ensure that such beverages are served as individual portions and that the common areas are under regular surveillance.

Clarifications for Grocery Permit Holders

The Regulation also clarifies what establishments may be eligible for grocery permits for retail sale of alcohol. The Regulation prescribes:

  • the absolute value of foodstuffs available for sale must be at least $5 500 calculated according to retail price of goods;
  • the proportion of foodstuffs on display for sale must be at least 51% of the establishment’s products on display; and
  • the variety of foodstuffs available must include at least three of the nine prescribed categories namely meats, proteins and substitutes; dairy products; canned foods, cereals, pasta, flour and products sold in bulk; fruits and vegetables; bakery products; candy, sparkling water and potato chips; frozen foods; condiments and sauces; and ready to eat food.

Applicants for grocery permits will now have to provide an inventory to the Liquor Board  demonstrating that they meet these requirements, and may be required to provide photographs of their inventory on request. The application form, however, indicates that the only value of the foodstuffs in each category is required, i.e., an itemized list of products on display and their prices need not be provided. The application form further indicates that only the value of merchandise on display is taken into account, meaning that merchandise in a storeroom that is not accessible to the public would not be taken into account.   

Still to come

While the provisions that recently came into force represent a significant change to Quebec’s liquor permit regime, Bill 170 includes additional measures that will take effect at a future date, including[2]

  • mandatory training on responsible consumption of alcoholic beverages;
  • delivery permits, which authorize, on the conditions determined by regulation, the transportation of alcoholic beverages for delivery to a patron who acquires them from a restaurant permit holder; or in the course of the provision of a public transportation service, in which case the holder is authorized to purchase the alcoholic beverages from a person authorized to sell them.

Though arguably more flexible than in the past, Quebec’s regulations governing liquor permits remain fairly complex. Fasken’s experts are more than happy to guide your business through them.



[1] An Act to modernize the legal regime applicable to liquor permits and to amend various other legislative provisions with regard to alcoholic beverages (2018, c. 20), available online [ “Bill 170”] at s 2 (new section 34.1 para 3 to be incorporated into the Act respecting liquor permits (CQLR c P-9.1)).

[2] Ibid (new section 32 to be incorporated into the Act respecting liquor permits (CQLR c P-9.1))34, 127.

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