I recently took a Smart Serve course. It was arranged for the members of the Rotary Club of Simcoe to prepare for our annual Friendship Festival from August 1 to 3, 2009. We intend to run a beer tent during the Festival and it is required that all Rotarians who serve drinks (and sell tickets) take the course. I thought that I was aware of the law concerning alcohol but I found out different. Some things I learned were:
1. Although it is widely understood that you have to be 19 years of age in Ontario to drink in this Province, servers only have to be 18 years old (go figure).
2. All alcohol sold and served must be consumed in licenced areas, except the "take home the rest" exception for wine served in specially licenced places. Actually, you can also take your own wine to these places.
3. A licenced establishment must offer a variety of light meals and alcohol-free beverages.
4. The establishment cannot water down a drink without the guest's permission and a "shooter" must be served in a self-supporting, flat-bottomed container.
5. Drinks must be consumed in the licenced premises but there is an exception for washrooms, hallways and stairwells if the licence permits.
6. Alcohol cannot be given away free and technically, no "happy hours" are allowed.
Most of us know that bars and restaurants can be held responsible for injuries suffered by a drunk patron, under the appropriate circumstances. The Smart Serve course is designed to give the necessary information to servers to avoid intoxication which crosses the line. We studied charts on the levels of alcohol which can lead to exceeding the legal limit. Blood Alcohol Concentration ("BAC"), which is the measurement of milligrams ("mg") of alcohol per 100 millilitres ("ml") of blood, can be affected by age, weight, health, gender and of course the rate of consumption. The Federal Criminal Code sets the limit at .08 BAC but under the Provincial Highway Traffic Act, the limit is .05 BAC. The penalties are quite severe with licence suspension at .05 BAC and impaired charges at .08 BAC. A 175 pound male can be at .08 BAC after 4 drinks in 1 hour. A 125 lb woman can be at .14 BAC for the same consumption and time!
We were taught strategies on how to assess a person's sobriety and how to handle someone who is intoxicated. It was an interesting course and hopefully, we will be equipped to deal with the issues at our beer tent so that our guests will enjoy themselves in a safe and responsible way.
Michael Cobb is a lawyer at the law firm of Cobb & Jones LLP. Should you have any questions for Ask A Lawyer, please direct them to the Simcoe Reformer or ask a lawyer of your choice.