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

LCBO Surveillance Technologies

Punch Cards, IBM & Statistical Analysis


Other Liquor Permits

Between 1927 and 1962 the LCBO had issued an average of 773,531 individual, or resident permits. These, however, were not the only types of issued liquor permits.

permit graph

The LCBO tried to arrange its permit system so that no liquor consumption escaped its gaze or existed outside its exercise of power. Liquor Permit Books also existed for visitors (Temporary Liquor Permit), those who had lost previous permits (Duplicate Liquor Permit), and the “special permit” for “Physicians,” “Druggists,” “Dentists and Veterinary Surgeons,” “Manufacturers,” “Mechanics and Scientifics,” “Sacramental or Mass Wine,” and “Hospitals” (Annual Reports of the LCBO, 1927-1962). application for special permitThese special permits were only issued by Head Office and each category had its own regulations regarding the possession and purchasing of liquor. However, like the individual Liquor Permit Books, all of the special permits required vendors to record the amount of alcohol purchased, and in some cases to whom the alcohol would be administered (Liquor Control Act 1927, c.70, s.56-60; LCBO Handbook 1951: 20).

In 1930 the LCBO started issuing new permits called the “Resident Wine and Beer Permit” and the “Temporary Wine and Beer Permit.” The Wine and Beer Permits were implemented as an attempt to wean Ontario citizens off the “harder” liquors and onto the more reasonable weaker substitutes. To promote this culture change in alcohol taste, the LCBO priced the new permit at half the cost of the normal Resident Permit and disallowed the ownership of both permit types. This move was successful in converting nearly 24% of Resident Permit holders to the new Wine and Beer Permits; still, the initial result of this move was less than successful. The new permits saw a higher ratio of cancellations in comparison with the Resident Liquor Permit – 1:42 for Wine and 1:68 for Beer – and ultimately ended up being discontinued in 1934 (Annual Report of the LCBO 1931-1932, 1933: 8).

Another short-lived liquor permit, the “Single Purchase” or “Special Single Purchase,” was introduced in 1934. The Single Purchase permits were much cheaper and allowed the holder a one time purchase of a small quantity of liquor, specifically, “one purchase of spirits of not more than twelve bottles,” for a cost of 25 cents (Annual Report of the LCBO 1934-1935, 1936; LCBO Circular 1601, 1934). However, like the Wine and Beer Permits, the utility of Single Purchase permits was heavily criticised for perceived laxity in supporting Board regulations and ideals (LCBO Circular 1592, 1934; LCBO Circular 1758, 1935). In 1935, LCBO Head Office chastised vendors over sales related to the Single Purchase permits advising them that “laxity is greatly in evidence in connection with issuing of and endorsing of Single Purchase Permits, a condition that must cease forthwith,” in addition to informing them to redouble their efforts in maintaining purchase visibility by making “certain in future that Single Purchase Permits bear the correct date of issue and [are] endorsed to the full extent of the purchase” (Ibid). Perhaps due to the relative invisibility of purchases – these permit holders did not have to carry a record of their purchases around with them since Single Purchase permits never left the stores – Single Purchase permits were so popular that they almost eliminated the Resident Liquor Permit through to the early 1940s. In 1943 the Board reported that the Single Purchase permit was effectively discontinued due to the lifting of “the restrictive provisions of the ‘Wartime Alcoholic Beverages Order, 1942,’ together with the[ir] Administrator’s request” (Annual Report of the LCBO 1943-1944, 1945: 7). Wartime regulations had also linked rationing technologies to permits, resulting in Beer Ration Books and Beer Stamps during the Second World War (LCBO Circular 3530, 1944; LCBO Circular 3377, 1943).

Finally in 1956, given the costs and demand for liquor permits the Board experimented with “leaflet” individual permits (LCBO Circular S-145, 1956). These permits were “5 1/2 inches by 6 1/2 inches (larger than Temporary Permits) – mauve in colour, with narrow red borders” and like the Permit Books, carried the same individual identifications and employment information while on “the reverse side of the permits there [were] sufficient lines for forty purchase entries” (Ibid).

Although the permits varied throughout the years, the core elements remained the same – the identification and individualization of permit holders coupled with inducements of self-management and continuous, and even enhanced (more minute bureaucratic partitioning) surveillance.


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