Your Planning Guide for Hosting an Event

Table of Contents

The City of Ottawa promotes the health and safety of guests at events held on City premises. If you're holding an event on City premises, you have many responsibilities. For example, when you apply for a Special Occasion Permit (S.O.P.) you agree to be held legally responsible for the safety and sobriety of your guests. As the Sponsor, you and your group can be held liable for injuries and damages arising from failure to adhere to the Liquor License Act of Ontario. These infractions include serving someone to intoxication, serving someone who is already intoxicated, serving minors, and failing to prevent impaired individuals from driving. This step-by-step Planning Guide will help you plan and run your event, provide you with information to control liability, prevent dangerous situations from occurring and how to promote low-risk drinking practices.

The City of Ottawa wants your event to be a successful celebration.

If there are any discrepancies between the provisions provided in this Guide and the Municipal Alcohol Policy, the Municipal Alcohol Policy will prevail.

Things to do before your event

Before you obtain a Special Occasion Permit from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), confirm with a city/community partner representative that the premises are available for rental on the date of your event.

  • Obtain an S.O.P./Catering Endorsement from the AGCO and show proof of this to a city/community partner representative prior to the event. Failure to provide this documentation will result in you not being permitted to serve alcohol at your event.
  • The AGCO will advise you when City of Ottawa departments require notification of your event. If the AGCO advised you to contact any of the following City of Ottawa departments, the following contact information is provided to assist you:

Ottawa Police Services
Emergency Operations Division
Attention: East District Staff Sergeant
P.O. Box 9634, Station T
Ottawa, Ontario
K2G 6H5

By-law Services Assistant
By-law & Regulatory Services Branch
Attention: Sandra Peck
735 Industrial Road
Ottawa, Ontario
K1S 5M7
613-580-2424 Ext. 31514

Fire Services Branch
Fire Prevention
101 Centrepointe Drive 3rd Floor
Ottawa, Ontario
K2G 5K7
613-580-2424 Ext. 15371 

Environment & Health Protection Division
Attention: Siobhan Kearns
100 Constellation Crescent
Nepean, Ontario
K2G 6J8
613-580-2424 Ext. 23483

Building Code Services Branch
Business Integration Services Unit
Attention: Beryl Brownlee
101 Centrepointe Drive
Nepean, Ontario
K2G 5K7
613-580-2424 Ext. 31326

  • If the AGCO advised you to contact the City of Ottawa you must, at least 21 days prior to the event, write to the City Clerks office and include:
    • A copy of your Special Occasion Permit (S.O.P.) application
    • A detailed sketch showing the dimensions of the area for which the permit will apply
    • Clearly indicate what type of event it is, where it is being held, when it is being held, during what hours alcohol will be serviced, what type of entertainment is planned, if it is an outdoor event and most importantly what type of letter you require from the City Clerk (letter of non-objection to extend a current licence, or a letter of support for the event, or a letter of designation of the event.
  • Prior to the event, you will be requested to provide the community partner, Facility Manager, Supervisor or Portfolio Manager with a copy of your S.O.P. A city/community partner representative will review the S.O.P. to ensure the quantities are acceptable to the city/community partner and equal to the quantities listed on the S.O.P. for the number of participants declared to attend the event. 
  • On the day of the event, display your original S.O.P./Licence/Catering Endorsement and levy receipts in a conspicuous location within the immediate area where the alcohol is to be sold or distributed.
  • All alcohol permitted on the site must be purchased and approved under your S.O.P.  
  • Submit a security/operational plan when your event is classified by the City of Ottawa as a high risk or major event. All costs associated with the security/operational plan shall be borne by the Sponsor.  
  • You must arrange for and maintain third party liability insurance coverage. Your City of Ottawa or community partner representative will advise you what form of insurance, limit of liability and endorsements you require. For your information the City of Ottawa administers an affordable third party liability insurance program that you can purchase directly from your city/community partner representative. 
  • Arrange for alcohol training certification for your event workers. Your City of Ottawa representative will advise you regarding alcohol training requirements and provide you with alcohol training information.

Complete, sign and return the attached Acknowledgement Statement to the City of Ottawa representative responsible for the facility/premises you are booking for your event.

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Important facts about alcohol and controlling consumption

Non-alcohol beverages must be made readily available throughout the duration of the event and at a cost significantly lower than drinks containing alcohol. Ensure that a variety of low-alcohol "lite" beverages are available. Low-alcohol beverages are the smart choice to help control and prevent intoxication. They provide responsible patrons with an opportunity to consume less alcohol and avoid becoming intoxicated at an accelerated rate. For example, a patron consuming a regular beer at 5 per cent alcohol would have to drink two 'extra light' beer at 2.5 per cent alcohol to ingest the same amount of pure alcohol. 'Lite' beer at 4 per cent alcohol represents a 20 per cent reduction in pure alcohol intake than a regular beer.

The City supports the serving of a "standard drink" as a measure to gauge alcohol consumption.

The Standard Drink

  • 12 oz or 341 ml. of beer with 5 per cent alcohol
  • 5 oz or 142 ml. of wine with 12 per cent alcohol
  • 1 ½ oz or 43 ml. of spirits with 40 per cent alcohol

Each of these standard drinks has 0.6 ounces or 17 ml. of pure alcohol that has similar effects on the body.

Many alcohol products contain a higher pure alcohol content than a standard drink. These products are considered to be "fortified." Sponsors and servers are strongly discouraged from serving 'fortified' alcohol products and must  be awarethat:

  • Beer products with more than 5 per cent alcohol, wine products with more than 12 per cent alcohol and spirits with more than 40 per cent alcohol, are considered "fortified" alcohol products 
  • Many coolers and beer products are "fortified," check the pure alcohol content before serving 
  • "Fortified" products have a greater alcoholic content and patrons must be made aware these products will lead to accelerated adverse alcohol effects on the body.  
  • You are responsible to closely monitor and limit the consumption of 'fortified' alcohol products by patrons.

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Controls to limit alcohol consumption

  • If alcohol beverages tickets are sold, the sale of a maximum of five (5) tickets per person is permitted at one time.  
  • Allow the redemption of unused tickets for cash on demand at any time during the event.  
  • Sponsors are encouraged to limit the number of free drinks provided to guests during an open bar event to two (2) drinks per person.  
  • Only a maximum of two (2) drinks can be sold/served to one person at any one time.  
  • Prohibit 'last calls' and announcements prior to the end of the event that advise patrons the bar is about to close, in order to control drink stocking within the last minutes of the event.  
  • Better quality premium drink brands encourage guests to sip and savour their drink rather than ordering multiple lesser-priced drinks.  
  • In order to reduce the risk of intoxication and the rate of consumption, Sponsors must supply food sufficient to serve the persons attending the event. Serving food is one of the best ways to lower the risk of becoming intoxicated. Not only does food delay the absorption of alcohol into the blood, but it generally takes longer to drink while you are eating. Sponsors are strongly encouraged to offer food throughout the event, rather than just a buffet at midnight, to ensure your guests are not drinking on an empty stomach. Pizza slices, sandwiches, soups, vegetable dishes, hot dogs or hamburgers are considered substantial food types. Snacks such as chips, pretzels, and peanuts are not considered food and due to salt intake increase the rate of consumption.

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Things to do during your event and special rules for serving alcohol

You're the host and you must attend the event for the entire duration, including the post event clean-up and be responsible for making decisions regarding the operation of the event and safe transportation.

  • You, or your designate, and event workers must remain sober during the event.  
  • Check identification before admitting and serving a person who is apparently under the age of 19. Acceptable forms of identification, which include a photo, are: a BYID card issued by the LCBO; Driver's Licence; Canadian Armed Forces I.D. card; Canadian Citizenship Card, or a Candian passport.  
  • Permit City representatives to enter the event at all times.  
  • Marketing practices, which encourage increased or immoderate consumption, such as oversized drinks, double shots of spirits, drinking contests, liquor raffles and volume discounts, are not permitted.  
  • Alcohol advertising is not permitted at City facilities frequented by youth without the approval of the City.  
  • The provision of free alcohol for marketing promotion purposes must be approved by the City.  
  • Do not advertise liquor or the availability of liquor without the prior written approval of the City.  
  • The serving of alcohol must cease no later than the hour specified on the S.O.P./Licence/Catering Endorsement.

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Reducing the risk of injury, liability and property damage

Ensure the physical setting is safe for drinkers and non-drinkers. All exits must be kept clear of obstructions.

  • If you become aware of a situation that could lead to injury or property damage you must take immediate and decisive action to prevent your guests from engaging in activities or conduct that is drunkenness, riotous, quarrelsome, violent or disorderly which could harm themselves or others, or could result in property damage.  
  • Be available upon request to event workers who require assistance in managing a person who is refused a sale or becomes unmanageable.  
  • Ensure liquor that is sold or served on the premises is not removed from the premises, or brought into an unacceptable area, by a person attending the event.  
  • All bottles must be retained within the licensed area.  
  • All beverages must be served in unbreakable cups except for formal dinners and catered events and events held in a restaurant.  
  • If you, or an event worker, has reason to believe that the presence of a person on the premises is threatening, request the person to leave or forbid the person to enter the premises. Do not permit persons to enter the premises that are or appear intoxicated, are known troublemakers or individuals that could cause overcrowding.  
  • If drunkenness, riotous, quarrelsome, violent or disorderly conduct could lead to an uncontrolled situation and the troublemaker refuses to leave, the Sponsor/designate/event worker/City staff will:  
  • first ask the person to leave, and  
  • if the individual refuses to leave, call the Police 
  • Persons under the legal drinking age of nineteen (19) should not be admitted to an adult social event held on City premises where alcohol is to be consumed, unless they are accompanied and monitored by an adult 25 years of age. It is understood that underage participants will not be provided or served alcohol directly or indirectly at the event.

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Event servers and monitors

The City has established required event workers ratios. Trained Servers must be certified by a recognized alcohol server training course that has been approved by the City. The Sponsor shall ensure all event workers are over the age of 19. Door and entrance monitors are encouraged to monitor the door for a minimum of 1.5 hours following the advertised admission time and for a minimum of 1.5 hours prior to the advertised departure time.

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What to do after the event

Sponsors must conceal or remove all evidence of the service and consumption of liquor within forty-five (45) minutes after the end of the period during which liquor may be sold or served under the S.O.P. When the bar set-up is permanent, as required by Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario regulations, patrons must be cleared from the room within 45 minutes of closing.

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Safe transportation

You must remain on the premises until all the patrons have left the premises by a safe and satisfactory means of transportation. Sponsors are responsible for promoting safe transportation options for drinking guests at the event. These safe transportation options may include:

  • The requirement to have a designated driver strategy. Your strategy should include information such as the names of the person(s) that will use a personal vehicle to drive impaired participants to a place of safety.  
  • The promotion of taxis, buses, or other forms of alternate transportation; and/or,  
  • Call a friend, relative, or taxi to assist intoxicated drivers  
  • If an uncontrollable situation develops in relation to an intoxicated guest driving their/others vehicles, the Sponsor, designate, or if present an approved City representative, shall call the Police and request that the intoxicated guest be apprehended to ensure they do not drive a vehicle while intoxicated.  
  • If necessary, call police, warn or apprehend the impaired driver. 
  • The provision of a taxi service alone is not a substitute for a safe transportation driver strategy.

Sponsors must ensure other forms of transportation are also available. If a taxi service is required the cost to provide such service shall be the responsibility of the Sponsor. At premises where deposits are mandatory, if required, staff may apply the Sponsor's deposit to pay for this service.

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