Cracking down on unruly bar behaviour nationwide

A glance at strategies employed by jurisdictions across Canada to keep the peace (and the quiet) in nightlife neighbourhoods.

Photo by Kim Keitner

Every growing city faces the problem of dealing with rowdy bar-goers. Concerns over violence and vandalism motivate political forces and bar owners to act on the issue. While Halifax bars attempt to implement a citywide ban for problem-causing patrons, other regions are mulling over their own dilemmas and coming up with their own solutions. Here is a glimpse into what other regions are doing to combat the growing problem of boisterous (and sometimes violent) bar patrons:


In Canada's largest city, some are concerned about the prospect of bar-only neighbourhoods. Ossington Avenue, a former industrial area, was the object of a city ban on new bars on May 26, 2009. Local councillor and deputy mayor Joe Pantalone spearheaded the interim control bylaw which imposes a year-long moratorium on the food licences that business owners on the street need in order to get a provincial liquor licence. The goal is to establish "law and order" and take the focus away from bars to allow more retail operations to flourish. Bar owners were upset over the ban but residents pushed for a reduction in noise on the street.


On St. John's infamous George Street, night-time crowds are as vibrant as ever but city officials want to revamp the historic street's daytime appeal, making it more family friendly. The final report of the George Street redevelopment study concludes safety and security would improve with more level street surfaces, more windows facing the street and possibly changing hours of operation to increase security. The decision to change bar hours however, rests with provincial authorities and no changes have been made thus far.


The Manitoba legislature passed a bill on August 1, 2021 that allows the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission to quickly close an establishment or prohibit the sale of liquor for "public interest concerns." The commission can also conduct safety evaluations of bars in the event of a serious injury or death. The legislation was a response to increased violence in downtown Winnipeg nightclubs including a shooting in which four people were injured and a fatal stabbing.


The 2010 new year marked a change for employees at licenced bars and restaurants in Alberta. They must now all undergo training to learn how to set alcohol limits for customers.
The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission is requiring the free training sessions, which every employee except kitchen staff must receive within 30 days of being hired. The aim of the new rules is to prevent disorderliness in bars by helping servers identify customers that have had too much to drink and knowing when to cut them off. Establishments whose employees are not trained can be issued warnings, fines or could have their licences suspended or revoked. In 2006, the province instituted similar safety training for bouncers.

British Columbia:

Bars participating in B.C.'s Bar Watch program scan drivers licences and use metal detectors in an effort to keep gangsters and troublemakers out of their establishments. The program came under scrutiny last summer when privacy commissioner David Loukidelis ruled that collecting patrons' personal information violated the province's Personal Information and Protection Act. But the company that developed the software worked with Loukidelis to come up with a solution. Now establishments using the Bar Watch program can scan drivers licences and collect the name, birth date, gender and picture of patrons -- but they must delete the information after 24 hours. The exception to the one-day rule is if the customer caused a disruption in the bar. In this case, the information can be kept for a year.


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