We often bemoan the state of drinking in Ontario – the selection, the policies, etc. In fact, this site is dedicated to presenting arguments why the retail system does not suit the beer connoisseur. However, I recently came across a fascinating web site that shows that things in Ontario were much stranger for drinkers.
The site, Punched Drunk, Alcohol, Surveillance and the LCBO, 1927-1975, is a companion to the book of the same name, written by Gary Genosko and Scott Thompson. The site (and book) presents some of the various tools that the LCBO used to track alcohol consumption in Ontario, and it’s pretty amazing to think that some of these procedures were in place right up until the mid-70s.
For instance, consumers needed to have a liquor permit, which seemed to be like a driver’s license, which was required to purchase alcohol and had to be carried around. When someone purchased liquor, they needed to fill out a form. But in what is a pretty shocking manner, the LCBO also kept track of individual purchases, and could decide to forbid sales to consumers (a process called “interdiction”). The site speaks to the different policies and has reproduced some original LCBO documents to take a look at.
It’s incredible and interesting to think about a time where these and other policies were the norm and a part of daily life. And although things have significantly changed in the 35 years since the end of these policies, it’s still important to understand that our alcohol sales are still controlled by the same entity now as in the past. After all, the LCBO continues to make decisions about what is available for sale based upon social judgements.
The kinds of extreme policies from Punched Drunk will likely never be seen again, but it is important that we continue to push for modernization to benefit connoisseurs in Ontario.