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

LCBO Surveillance Technologies

Punch Cards, IBM & Statistical Analysis


Getting a permit

application for individual liquor permitAnyone who wanted to buy any form of liquor had to apply for a permit. To begin they had to obtain a permit application form (LCBO Form 76), known as Form S-46 after 1937, fill it out, and have an individual appointed by the Board verify their identity and character (Liquor Control Act 1927, c.70, s.37.2; LCBO Handbook 1951: 25). They also had to pay a fee of two dollars. Once the necessary paperwork was completed and the individual’s application accepted, the Board granted a permit and thus the privilege to purchase liquor.

An applicant had to be twenty-one years of age, a resident of Ontario for one month or more (visitors could apply under the “Temporary” category), and of “good” character. However, Board regulations specifically required sons under twenty-five living at home to present certificates of consent “obtained from [their] parents,”(LCBO Annual Report 1928-29: 11).The regulations also ruled out those defined as “Indians,” those who were already disqualified through various legislation, or those who were identified through the LCBO’s own sorting operations as recipients of “an order of cancellation or interdiction” (Liquor Control Act 1927, c.70, s.37.4, 44, 95-1; LCBO Vendor’s Instructions 1927: 2 ; LCBO Handbook 1951: 20). The application process created two copies of the permit: one was sent to the Permit Department, and known a “second copy,” while the other was given to the customer, or “permittee,” to be presented upon each purchase.

liquor permit second copy These secondary permits provided information that allowed the Board to keep tabs on problem users, who would retain their previous classifications (such as cancellations and interdictions) and restrictions if they attempted to receive a new permit (LCBO Circular no. 1167, 1930; see also no. 837, 1929). The information also enabled the LCBO to ensure that no permit holder could purchase additional permits. As circular after circular made clear, the Permit Department was quite adamant about maintaining accurate records concerning the second copies because they provided head office with the necessary oversight over permit-issuing and allowed a statistical analysis of classified individuals.

A Liquor Permit Book was valid for a twelve-month period, from November 1 of one year to October 31 of the next, after which it had to be replaced, another permit applied for, and two dollars again paid. Reports regarding the sale of liquor permits, along with second copies of the Liquor Permit Books, were sent to head office on a daily basis to ensure that only one permit was issued per individual (LCBO Store Inspector’s Report, Form R-3: 2).

Permits were limited to “well behaved citizens and visitors” who were purchasing within their “financial means,” and strictly kept away from anyone “abusing the permit privilege” (LCBO Circular no. 333, 1928).


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Tracking with IBM Punch Cards 1944-1962    Permit Card 1958-1962    End of Liquor Permits >>