Punched Drunk: Alcohol, Surveillance and the LCBO, 1927-1975

LCBO Surveillance Technologies

Punch Cards, IBM & Statistical Analysis


Control Mandate

The board presented itself as a force bent on controlling liquor consumption. It pledged to ensure that only “those who could take liquor decently should have it” and that the board would achieve its mandate of always knowing “exactly who is buying and how much, and what disposition is being made of it” (Ferguson 1927, 2,3). Employees were continually informed that it was

“essential to remember that sales and profits are secondary considerations, that the primary one is control; that volume of sales and profits may actually in some stores indicate laxity toward abuses of the permit privilege, and that satisfactory service in a store is best proved by prevalence of good social conditions in the surrounding community, absence of drunkenness and disorderliness, and freedom of complaints of neglected wives and families” (LCBO 1928-29, 14; see also LCBO Circular 497, 1928).

In selling itself as the embodiment of moderation (combined with the morality of temperance) the LCBO even went so far as to portray itself as an anti-drinking organization. In its first Annual Report the Board explained how government-enacted liquor control had accomplished: “a marked cutting down of the bootlegging evil; a lessening of youth temptations to break prohibitory laws; the bringing about of greater respect for all law; a decrease if not an elimination of the making of ‘home-brew’ with its dangerous poison tendencies; and, it is hoped, a real stimulation to temperance in all things by education and home training rather than by prohibiting which does not prohibit” (LCBO Annual Report 1927: 7).


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