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

LCBO Surveillance Technologies

Punch Cards, IBM & Statistical Analysis


Liquor Permits

Liquor Permits were introduced by the LCBO in Ontario in 1927 under the conditions of the Liquor Control Act and were used until 1962. Those wanting to drink needed to have a permit, and the LCBO sought to strictly control who was allowed to drink. Within these permits was a section for the holder’s personal information as well as a section to record all of his or her purchases. These permits were reviewed each time the permit holder made a purchase and those found to be drinking too much or “abusing” their permit privilege would have their permit cancelled.

Liquor Permit Books 1927-1958 - Between 1927 and 1962 every individual that wanted to purchase liquor from LCBO stores were 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 of every single purchase that the permit holder made. (Read More)

Getting a Permit – Permits were not issued automatically and the LCBO required that the applicant be 21 years of age as well as be a “well behaved citizen” and purchasing within their “financial means” (LCBO Circular no. 333, 1928). Permits were to be strictly kept away from anyone “abusing the permit privilege”. (Read More)

Other Liquor Permits – In addition to resident permits the LCBO also issued special permits to Ministers of the Gospel, Hospitals and other specified groups. Also the LCBO experimented with different permit types (including single purchase permits, beer and wine permits and others) in hopes of decreasing the abuse of alcohol in the province. (Read More)

Tracking with IBM Punch Cards 1944-1962 – Starting in 1944 the LCBO implemented a new way of tracking permit holders by adopting IBM punch card technology. Specifically, the LCBO used this technology to keep track of who had purchased a permit, who had limitations or rejections placed on their permits and who had had their permits cancelled. (Read More)

Permit Card 1958-1962 – In 1958 the LCBO dropped the bulky and labour intensive purchase section from their permits and condensed the personal information section to fit on a single card. Although the ongoing purchase record was no longer visible on the permit the LCBO argued that along with its purchase order forms they could still track purchase histories when needed. (Read More)

End of Liquor Permits
– Although the Board decided to eliminate liquor permits in 1962 they maintained control over purchases through the Purchase Order Form. (Read More)