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Liquor History & Facts

Quick Facts - Liquor in Alberta PDF

A Short History of Liquor Regulations in Alberta

Here are some milestones in the history of liquor in Alberta:

1870

The Northwest Territories region, including the District of Alberta, come under the control of the Dominion Parliament.

The law relating to liquor traffic states:

'No intoxicating liquor or intoxicant shall be manufactured, compounded or made in the Territories except by the special permission of the Governor in Council; nor shall any intoxicating liquor or intoxicant be imported or sold, exchanged, traded, or bartered, or had in possession therein except by special permission of the Lieut.-Governor.'

1892

Northwest Territories Liquor License Ordinance grants hotels under licence to sell all types of beverage alcohol for consumption on premises.

1906

The Liquor License Ordinance is placed on the Alberta Statutes, which provides for issuing of licences and sale of alcohol on licensed premises at both wholesale and retail levels.

1916

Albertans vote for prohibition; the province's Liquor Act is proclaimed, abolishing alcohol sales in the province.

1918

Federal order-in-council prohibits importing liquor from one province to another or from outside Canada, outlawing mail-order of alcohol products.

1924

Albertans vote to end prohibition; the Liquor Act is repealed and the Liquor Control Act proclaimed; the Alberta Liquor Control Board (ALCB) is formed, and government assumes control of retailing and wholesaling of alcohol.

1925

Palliser Hotel in Calgary is the first licensed hotel in Alberta, followed by the MacDonald Hotel in Edmonton.
The first price list is printed (quart of scotch fetches $5.25, imperial quart of higher quality whisky is $7.25).

1928

Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act (IILA) is passed by the federal government, restricting the importation/transportation of any intoxicating liquor:

"...except such as has been purchased by or on behalf of, and that is consigned to Her Majesty or the executive government of, the province into which it is being imported, sent, taken or transported, or any board, commission, officer or other governmental agency that, by the law of the province, is vested with the right of selling intoxicating liquor."

IILA is a fundamental basis of the federal mandates and responsibilities (e.g.: customs and excise) of the ALCB.

1932

ALCB officers armed with handguns enforce the Liquor Control Act until enforcement duties transfer to RCMP.

1934

Beer off-sales permitted from hotels.

1942

In support of the war effort, the amount of alcohol released from bond is reduced; all alcohol is removed from restricted list by 1947.

1950

The Liquor Control Act is amended; liquor licences could be issued to clubs and canteens with beer licences if they provide regular meal service.

1951

ALCB grants 409 hotel beer licences, 69 club licences, 31 canteen licences, five brewers' licences and one distillery licence.

There are 63 liquor stores operating.

1952

ALCB has 400 full-time staff and nets $13 million for the government's general revenue fund.

1958

New laws are proclaimed: Liquor Control Act, Liquor Licensing Act, and the Liquor Plebiscites Act.

The first dining lounge and lounge licences are issued to Canadian National, Canadian Pacific Railways, the Wales Hotel in Calgary and MacDonald Hotel in Edmonton.

The first permits are granted to individual. The first special permits are granted to doctors, veterinarians, druggists, and ministers.

1965

Customer signatures are no longer needed on counter slips to buy alcohol.

1967

For the first time since 1927, beverage rooms can be used by men and women together.

1969

The first self-serve liquor store opens in the Westmount community in Edmonton.

1970

The ALCB stops bottling products (previously, the ALCB bought bulk barrels of wine and spirits and bottled them into stone jars and bottles with the ALCB brand for sale in stores).

1971

The age of majority for drinking and meeting other adult responsibilities is reduced to 18 from 21 years.

Duty-free stores are established.

1973

Domestic Beer warehousing transfers to the Alberta Brewers' Agents Limited using a common warehouse for their members.

1974

ALCB carries more than 1,000 product lines.

1975

143 liquor stores operate in the province.

1980

New Liquor Control Act is proclaimed; licensing matters that were historically in the statute are now addressed in five separate regulations.

1985

Wine boutiques introduced.

1988

Hotel-based cold beer stores approved.

1990

Hotel off-sales expanded from beer only to beer, wine and spirits.

1991

Bill 42, Liquor Control Amendment Act is proclaimed law. New Liquor Administration Regulation came into force.

1993

Government announces the privatization of the liquor retail industry.

1993

On September 4 the ALCB starts to sell or close all government run liquor stores. Wine boutiques, introduced in 1985, are grandfathered into private retail liquor stores.

The first private liquor retailers open in October. The retail price of liquor products for consumers is now set by liquor licensees.

At the time of privatization, there were 208 retail liquor stores with 2,200 different products available.

1994

The last ALCB government run liquor store is closed on March 5.

Connect Logistics leases the ALCB's existing warehouse in St. Albert and continues to warehouse all wine, coolers, imported beer and spirits legally sold in Alberta.

1995

Alberta Brewers’ Agents Limited becomes Brewers Distributor Limited (BDL) in August.

1996

The responsibilities and operations of the ALCB are combined with Alberta Lotteries, the Alberta Gaming Commission, Alberta Lotteries and Gaming and the Gaming Control Branch to create the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC).

1999

The Ministry of Gaming is created, which consists of the Department of Gaming, the AGLC, the Community Lottery Program Secretariat, the Alberta Gaming Research Council and the Horse Racing Alberta Act.

The AGLC sells the last building that once housed a government owned and operated liquor store.

The AGLC reduces the flat mark-up on beer products effective May 1 to allow small breweries to be more competitive.

2000

A new policy allows liquor suppliers or agencies to enter into product promotion agreements with licensees.

2001

As of March 31, Alberta has 826 private retail liquor stores and 81 general merchandise liquor stores (rural locations) with 18,876 products listed.

2002

Effective April 1, the provincial flat mark-up on all liquor products is increased. A 750 ml bottle increases by up to 60 cents for spirits, and up to 45 cents for wine. The final retail price for consumers is a business decision made by liquor licensees.

2003

Since privatization began a decade previously, product selection increased to 11,353 from pre-privatization levels of 2,200. The number of liquor stores increased from 208 to 1,010 retail outlets, including 925 private retail liquor stores and 85 general merchandise liquor stores (rural locations).

Beginning October 22, amendments to the Gaming and Liquor Regulations allow patrons to bring their own bottles of wine to participating restaurants (Class A, and C licensees) across the province. Patrons of Class A, B and C licensees are also able to take home partial bottles of wine that have been re-corked by restaurant staff.

Commercial catering companies are now able to provide and sell or serve liquor at private and public events.

Three theatres (West Edmonton Mall Silver City, and Calgary’s Coliseum and Paramount Chinook) in the Famous Players chain are approved to sell liquor in their lobby areas.

On July 1, federal government changes excise-related and customs-related Acts and Regulations (the most significant changes in nearly two decades). Definitions of “spirits”, “wine”, and “beer” in the statutes are changed for clarity.

2004

The AGLC Social Responsibility Division is created in May.

The Alberta Server Intervention Program (ASIP) is launched. The industry-led training program for liquor retailers and servers is designed to replace a number of separate association training programs.

ASIP is a provincially-recognized program, and is mandatory under AGLC policy. Training topics include legal responsibilities and liabilities, identifying intoxication, handling situations involving minors, and discontinuing or refusing service or sale of alcohol.

2005

Regulation amendments allow for a new, cottage-based, fruit wine industry.

The new #TAXI program—a joint effort by the AGLC, the Canadian Association of Liquor Jurisdictions, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving—makes it easier for patrons to call for a ride home.

The AGLC and Solicitor General and Public Security co-host the first Alberta Roundtable on Violence In and Around Licensed Premises where bar owners and managers, municipal and community officials, liquor industry regulators and law enforcement officers explored possible solutions to address violence in and around licensed establishments.

2006

The AGLC was added to the portfolio of the Ministry of the Solicitor General and Public Security after the Ministry of Gaming was eliminated.

Mead (honey wine) is added to the list of products that can be produced, packaged and sold directly from Alberta farms.

The Alberta Roundtable on Violence In and Around Licensed Premises reconvenes for a second session to continue discussions and set priorities for addressing the issue of violence in and around licensed premises.

A review of the distribution of liquor products to licensees from the Connect Logistics Services warehouse and the receipt of liquor products from suppliers and agents begins. The review is conducted by an independent third party and focuses on the liquor warehousing and distribution supply chain in Alberta, with a view to proposing resolutions to the supply chain issues facing the provision of spirits, wine, coolers, and imported beer in Alberta.

2007

On July 1, the federal government increases excise rates, introduces excise exemptions for domestic wine, and decreases the GST rate to 6 per cent.

AGLC hosts Operator and Regulatory Best Practices Symposium, bringing together leading researchers, government officials and licensees to discuss issues associated with violence in and around licensed premises and overconsumption. The symposium was a follow-up to the previous roundtables on violence in and around licensed premises.

The liquor distribution report recommendations are accepted in full by the AGLC Board and work begins immediately on implementation. The report also acknowledges Alberta’s privatized liquor distribution model has worked well, meeting the original policy objectives established in 1993 when the system was privatized.

2008

On January 1, the federal government decreases the GST rate to 5 per cent.

In July the AGLC responds to complaints by police and other groups with the introduction of new regulations to restrict the sale of alcohol in restaurants and bars. Among the new regulations: limits on happy hours, drink prices and last calls.

Alberta Server Intervention Program (ASIP) changes its name to ProServe to be consistent with the AGLC suite of “SMART” branded industry training programs.

ProTect training is launched. This is AGLC’s program for management and staff who perform security-type duties in licensed premises (e.g. floor person, doorperson). It was developed in consultation with the liquor industry based on government’s commitment to respond to violence in and around licensed premises and to ensure liquor activities are conducted with integrity and in a socially responsible manner.

In response to the growing concern about violence in and around licensed premises, the AGLC forms the Alberta Safer Bars Council. This provincial advisory group provides input on liquor service policy development and how to implement best practices to help reduce the number of violent incidents in licensed venues.

Alberta Safer Bars Council is established. The council is comprised of knowledgeable and experienced individuals representing a diverse group of liquor industry stakeholders.

2009

On January 1, the federal government decreases customs rates for most import wine products.

Amendments to Alberta’s Gaming and Liquor Act included two key amendments to allow police officers to remove suspected gang members and their associates from bars and nightclubs without an offence having been committed. Licensees are permitted to share specific information with each other regarding problem patrons to prevent these individuals from moving to other licensed premises.

Cottage-based fruit wine allowed to be sold at farmers’ markets.

The AGLC releases Liquor Warehousing and Distribution in Alberta – Operational and Financial Business Case Findings and Conclusions report. The report concludes that one warehouser; subject to retendering every five years is preferred solution for the distribution of beverage alcohol products in Alberta. This report concludes the work that began in 2006.

As of December, there are 1,158 retail liquor stores in Alberta with 16,495 products available.

2010

ProServe training becomes mandatory as of  January 1st  for all employees involved in the sale or service of liquor at bars, restaurants, liquor stores and other Class A, B and D licensed premises.  

2012

The AGLC was moved into the portfolio the Hon. Doug Horner, President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance, following a provincial election. The AGLC previously had reported to the Government of Alberta through the Solicitor General and Public Security ministry.

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