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

LCBO Surveillance Technologies

Punch Cards, IBM & Statistical Analysis


Liquor Permit Books 1927-1958

Between 1927 and 1962 every individual that wanted to purchase liquor from LCBO stores was required to have a Liquor Permit. These permits, which licenced the holder to drink in the same way as current driver’s licences permit individuals to drive, were required for the legal purchase of alcohol and kept a record every single purchase that the permit holder made.

The Liquor Permit Books were introduced by the LCBO in Ontario in 1927 under the conditions of the Liquor Control Act and were printed for the Board by Danforth Press Limited (Liquor Control Act 1927, c.70, s.32, 37, 44, 95; Questions 5 and 6, RG 41-3 Box 15 file “Ontario Government Questions”). Permit Books resemble contemporary passports in size and shape (measuring 15cm by 10cm), and were individually and geographically identifiable through a unique six digit number ( LCBO Circular 948, 1930

The inside pages of the permit consisted of two separate sections. The first identified the permit holder and included the person’s name, address, marital status, occupation and employer. A second section was dedicated to purchases – including the type, volume, date, store number and the initials of the employee who made the sale. Starting in 1930 the purchase section also included a column detailing the value of liquor purchased along with a running tally of how much the permit holder had spent ( LCBO Circular 1125, 1930; Annual Report of the LCBO, 1929-1930, 1931). The LCBO designed the Liquor Permit Books specifically in this manner in order to make visible the permit holder and the purchases s/he was making, allowing for LCBO employees and police to keep tabs on people’s purchases (LCBO Circular 403, 1928; LCBO Circular 941, 1930).

The Liquor Permit enabled the tracking of each and every person’s individual purchases as well as the disciplining of those who drank too much. (Read More)
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liquor permit cover
liquor permit page 2
liquor permit page 3