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Liquor and Tobacco

In Canada, drinking alcohol in public is permitted only on licensed premises, such as restaurants, pubs and bars. There are stiff penalties for drinking and driving. Zero tolerance is enforced. It is applied to everyone, including diplomats. For a first offense, drivers are fined $1,000 and are prohibited from driving a vehicle for 12 months.

Smoking in Canada is banned in all indoor public spaces and workplaces, including restaurants, bars and casinos. It is banned inside all public transportation and aircrafts, and several provinces, including Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, ban smoking inside private cars when children younger than 16 are present. There are also restrictions governing outdoor smoking within a certain distance of public buildings. Tobacco products may be purchased in specialized tobacco stores and convenience stores by those who are older than 19 years of age in Ontario and British Columbia, and over 18 in Québec and Alberta. Foreign representatives are able to purchase tobacco in duty free stores. Persons who are found purchasing alcohol or tobacco for someone below the legal age are subject to heavy fines.


In Ontario, Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) outlets are the only sales agents for wine and spirits. They also sell liquor and a small selection of Canadian and imported beers. Wine is also available at several stores (and in kiosks in some grocery stores) run by licensed individual wineries. The Beer Store specializes in beers. Both LCBO outlets and Beer Stores are open seven days a week, except for statutory holidays. Drinking hours at licensed premises, such as bars or pubs, are from 11:00 a.m. until 2:00 a.m. The legal drinking age is 19 years and ID is required for any persons who appear under the age of 25.


In Québec, wines and liquors may be purchased at Société des alcools du Quebec (SAQ) outlets. Beer and some wines are available at grocery and convenience stores. Most small convenience stores, called dépanneurs, are open seven days a week, until 11:00 p.m. The legal drinking age is 18 years old. Many family-owned restaurants in Montréal offer a Bring Your Own Wine (AporteVotre Vin) option and do not charge an uncorking fee.


In Alberta, wines and liquors may be purchased only at retail liquor stores that are usually open between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m., although stores can also operate on reduced hours. If you host an event at which liquor will be served, you need to obtain a special event liquor licence. Information about this kind of licence is available at http://www.aglc.gov.ab.ca (Special Events Liquor Licences Page). The legal drinking age is 18 years old.


In British Columbia, wines and liquors may be purchased at BC Liquor Stores. There are some private specialty wine stores that are also licensed to sell wine. It is legal for customers to bring their own wine to a restaurant to enjoy with a meal, but restaurants usually charge an uncorking fee. Those who want to take an unfinished bottle home with them must have the restaurant re-seal the bottle. The legal drinking age is 19 years old.