Special Occasion Permit Guide

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Bottle of champagne filling multiple champagne glasses in a row

Section 1: Special Occasion Permits

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A Special Occasion Permit (SOP) is required any time liquor is sold or served anywhere other than in a licensed establishment or a private place (for example, a corporate boardroom or a residence). Note: liquor cannot be sold at a residence.

SOPs are for occasional, special events only, and not for personal profit or running an ongoing business. A permit may be revoked if the Registrar has reason to believe the event is being used for personal gain.

The following is an overview of the types of SOPs available, depending on the kind of event. For detailed information, see “Detailed Information on Event Types” below.

Types of Special Occasion Permits: Overview

Special Occasion Permits may be issued for the following types of events and activities:

  • Private Events are limited to invited guests only and may not be publicly advertised. There can be no intent to gain or profit from the sale of liquor at the event.

  • Public Events are open to the public. These events can be advertised and fundraising and/or profit from the sale of liquor at the event is permitted. There are several types of eligible public events:

    • Public events include events of provincial, national or international significance, or events designated by a municipal council or its delegate as an event of municipal significance.

    • Charity Events are public events conducted by a charitable organization registered under the Income Tax Act (Canada), or a non-profit association or organization for the advancement of charitable, educational, religious or community objects.

    • Tailgate Events are public events that are held in connection with, and in proximity to, a live sporting event and where attendees may bring their own liquor (BYOB) for consumption at the event.

    • Industry Promotional Events are public events held to promote a manufacturer’s product(s). Manufacturers or a licensed representative can provide or sell samples and take orders for liquor purchases.

  • Auctions are conducted by a charitable organization, administrator or executor of an estate or law enforcement officer acting within the scope of their duties. Auctions may be conducted wholly or partly online.

This guide provides an overview of private events, public events (except tailgate events) and industry promotional events. For more information on tailgate events and auctions, please refer to the AGCO’s Tailgate Event Permit Guide and Auction Guide

Section 2: “Sale” vs. “No-Sale” of Liquor

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Each type of permit (except auctions), may be a “sale” or “no-Sale” permit depending on how liquor will be served at the event.

Please see the Tailgate Guide for more information on authorized actions under no-sale and sale tailgate permits.

A no-sale permit allows for the service and/or consumption of liquor at an event. Individuals cannot directly or indirectly be charged for the cost of liquor.

  • A “No-Sale” permit is required when:

    • liquor is served without charge;

    • no money and/or other forms of payment is collected directly or indirectly for liquor from guests (e.g. through admission charge or ticket sales); and

    • the permit holder absorbs all liquor costs.

A sale permit allows for the sale, service and consumption of liquor at an event.  

  • A “sale permit” is required for events where money is collected for liquor through, for example:

    • an admission charge to the event;

    • the sale of liquor (cash bar) or liquor tickets sold to people attending the event; or

    • the collection of money and/or other forms of payments for liquor before the event.

Please note, there is no requirement to sell or serve food under a Special Occasion Permit. However, it is the permit holder’s responsibility to ensure they do not permit intoxication on the premises.

Section 3: Detailed Information on Event Types

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Private Events

Private events are limited to invited guests only and may not be publicly advertised, such as on social media or through any other medium. The public cannot be admitted and there can be no intent to gain or profit from the sale of liquor at the event.

Examples of a private event would include stag and does, bridal showers, wedding receptions, anniversary parties, baptisms or birthday parties, among others, where only family, friends and people known to the hosts or permit holders are invited to attend.

Public Events

A public event SOP can also be issued for the following types of events:

  • An event of provincial, national or international significance; 

  • An event designated by a municipal council as an event of municipal significance;

  • A charity event conducted by a charitable organization, a non-profit association or organization for the advancement of charitable, educational, religious or community objects;

  • A tailgate event held in connection with, and in proximity to, a live professional, semi-professional or post-secondary sporting event. For more information on tailgate events, please see the AGCO’s Tailgate Event Permit Guide.


A public event permit holder may advertise or promote the availability of liquor only in accordance with the standards and requirements established by the Registrar.

Designated Public Events – outdoor public events involving liquor sales licensed establishments

If an SOP has been issued for an outdoor event that has both licensed areas (bars, restaurants, etc.) and areas to which the SOP applies (e.g. the street on which the event is taking place), patrons may bring a serving of liquor between these areas under certain conditions set out in the Licensing Regulation. Licensees and permit holders are responsible for ensuring they meet the requirements listed below.

To be eligible, the event must meet the following criteria:

  • The event must be an outdoor event (e.g. street festival) taking place on both the licensed premises and premises to which the licence does not apply;

  • The event must be designated “municipally significant” and the applicant must submit a resolution of municipal council or a letter from a delegated municipal official designating the event as “municipally significant”; and

  • The licensee(s) and the permit holder must have entered into an agreement to ensure that there is no unreasonable risk to the public interest and no unreasonable risk of non-compliance with the Liquor Licence and Control Act, its regulations or standards and requirements established by the Registrar by either of the parties.

This agreement must be submitted to the AGCO for review and approval at least 30 days prior to the event.

Please refer to the Licensing Regulation of the Liquor Licence and Control Act for further information.

Special Occasion Gaming Events

The holder of an SOP for a public event may offer liquor, donated or otherwise, as a prize, provided there is a Special Occasion Gaming licence issued by the AGCO to the permit holder. Only charitable, non-profit, or religious organizations/associations are eligible for a Special Occasion Gaming licence. Please note only those 19 years of age or over may be awarded liquor as a prize and this condition must be disclosed and printed on all tickets.

For more information on obtaining a lottery licence, including a Special Occasion Gaming licence, please visit the AGCO website.

Industry Promotional Events

Industry promotional events are public events that promote a manufacturer’s product(s). Samples for tasting at the event may be provided (under a “No Sale” permit) or sold (under “Sale” permit). Manufacturers and/or their representatives may accept orders for liquor purchases at the event.

Retailing of liquor is not permitted at an industry promotional event, except under a temporary extension endorsement to a manufacturer’s licence. For more information on temporary extension endorsements, please see the Manufacturer’s Licence Guides.


An industry promotional event permit holder may advertise or promote the availability of liquor only in accordance with the standards and requirements established by the Registrar.

Market Research

Market research may be conducted under an industry promotional, “no sale” SOP or on behalf of a manufacturer for the purposes of gathering and analyzing information about consumers’ needs and preferences. Market research must be conducted in accordance with the standards and requirements established by the Registrar.

If an event organizer or AGCO licensed representative of a manufacturer is conducting market research or providing samples on behalf of a manufacturer, the event organizer may be required, upon request, to make available a letter from the manufacturer authorizing them as their representative to conduct market research and/or sampling.

If the market research is done in an open area (e.g. a mall foyer), the area must still be readily distinguishable from the area where the permit does not apply.

Liquor being sampled at a market research event does not have to be purchased from a government store.

Section 4: Conditions

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The AGCO regulates the sale, and service of liquor in Ontario and provides assistance to applicants and permit holders in understanding how to conduct an event in a responsible manner.

The Registrar may review applications for SOPs to determine if there are any risks associated with an event. The Registrar has the authority to attach conditions to an SOP to mitigate any risks that may be related to that event. Conditions might include, for example, limiting the hours of sale and service of liquor, or requiring that the event be limited to attendees who are at least 19 years of age. A list of conditions is available on the AGCO website.

Section 5: Revocation of Permit

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A police officer or AGCO Inspector may revoke an SOP while the event is underway if they reasonably believe that the Liquor Licence and Control Act or its regulations are being contravened in connection with the event.

Any permit holder may be issued a monetary penalty as a result of specific breaches of the Liquor Licence and Control Act, its regulations and the standards and requirements established by the Registrar. For further information on monetary penalties refer to the Schedule of Monetary Penalties which can be found on the AGCO website.

Section 6: Application Fees and Deadlines

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An application for a permit shall be submitted to the AGCO prior to the event. An applicant can apply for an SOP online by creating an iAGCO account. Through the iAGCO account, the applicant can check the status of the application and, once it is approved, print the permit.

SOP application fees are non-refundable. Please refer to the Schedule of Fees on the AGCO website for current SOP fees.

For indoor private events (i.e. events, with invited guests only, conducted without the intention of gain or profit from the sale of liquor), the application must be submitted 10 days prior to the event. 

For all other indoor events (i.e. public events including tailgate and industry promotional events), the application must be submitted at least 30 days prior to the event.

Municipal Notification

For outdoor events, the applicant must provide written notice to the local municipal clerk’s department, police, fire and health departments informing them of the event. If a tent, marquee, pavilion or tiered seating is used, the local building department should be notified in writing.

The timelines for applicants notifying local authorities are:

  • 30 days before the event or activity takes place, if fewer than 5,000 people are expected to attend; or

  • 60 days before the event or activity takes place if 5,000 or more people are expected to attend.

If the event or activity is to take place in an area under the control of the National Capital Commission, written notice to the Chair of the Commission is also required.

Copies of municipal notification letters will be required as part of the application.

Section 7: Submitting an SOP Application

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Applicant Information

An applicant must be 19 years of age or older to obtain an SOP. If the applicant is an organization, association or company, the application must be completed by a member or representative who will be at least 19 years of age on the day of the event, who has signing authority for the organization, association or company. Applicants must provide all information, materials, documentation or approvals as may be requested.

Responsible Person(s)

The permit holder/responsible person must be present throughout the SOP event and is responsible for the safety of people attending the event. They must ensure the event is run in compliance with the Liquor Licence and Control Act, its regulations, and the standards and requirements established by the Registrar.

The permit holder/responsible person indicated on the application will be noted on the permit. If there is more than one responsible person, all must be named and at least one of the persons named must be at the event at all times. The permit holder or, if applicable, designate shall make the permit readily available for inspection upon request.

NOTE: If the permit holder/responsible person is unable to attend, it is the responsibility of the permit holder to designate in writing someone to attend the permit event on their behalf. The designated person is responsible for ensuring that all legal requirements for the permit event are met. The designated person must not be someone who has previously been refused a permit by the AGCO.

Event Name and Details

In this section, please expand on the details and purpose of the event. If the event has a name (e.g. “Annual Rib-Fest” or “Anderson Family Wedding”), please provide that information in this section.

Dates and Times of Event

Sale, service and consumption of liquor may only take place during the hours specified on the permit.

Hours must be between 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. on any day except New Year’s Eve (December 31) where hours may be between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. the following day.

Date(s): Indicate the date on which the event will take place. If the event runs into the following day (e.g. until 2:00 a.m.), indicate the first day (e.g. if the event begins April 9th at 7:00 p.m. and ends April 10th at 2:00 a.m. it should indicate “April 9”).

Start Time: Indicate the time at which the sale, service and consumption of liquor will begin.

End Time: Indicate the time at which the sale, service and consumption of liquor will end. Please note that the signs of liquor must be cleared no later than 45 minutes after the end of the serving period (e.g. if serving period ends at 1:00 a.m., all signs of liquor must be cleared by 1:45 a.m.).

Multiple day events

A single permit may be issued for multiple day events if the nature, purpose, location and target audience of the event or activity are the same for each day (e.g. monthly social club gatherings, book club meetings, etc.); and as a result of doing so, the permit holder is not operating an ongoing business, or does not appear to be doing so.

Location Requirements & Application Information


The location/area where the event is to take place must meet the requirements below. This information can be obtained from the premises owner or manager and should confirm that the building has been inspected by the proper authorities. The following guidelines must be met:

  • The permit location/area where liquor will be sold/served/consumed must be readily distinguishable from areas where the permit does not apply. This means that all areas covered under the permit must be clearly defined and visibly separated from areas not under the permit. Examples of partitions that could be used to make the permit area readily distinguishable may include, but are not limited to, fences, planters, or ropes.

  • A premise used as a dwelling, not including the common areas of a multiple unit residential building, cannot not be used for the sale, service or consumption of liquor under a permit.

  • The location may not be in a dry area if liquor is to be sold at the event. A dry area is an area/municipality where liquor is not sold.

  • The location cannot be disqualified as set out in the LLCA.

Note: If the event is being held at different locations (whether it’s on the same day or over the course of several days), a separate permit is required for each location/address.

Application Information

If the room or location is within a large complex, specify the room name or use the exact location (e.g. Main Hall B, or 2nd floor, North West section). Do not use the name of the building or complex to describe the room or location (e.g. the North Tower).

For outdoor areas, use specific descriptions (e.g. pavilion, outdoor fenced area, main banquet room & fenced area/patio, etc.). Do not use “grounds”, “outside” or name of the park.

Estimated Attendance

Indicate how many people are expected to attend the event per day.


The maximum capacity of many indoor premises is predetermined by either the Building or Fire Department.

Maximum capacities for all outdoor areas (and indoor areas without a designated Building or Fire Department capacity) is determined by dividing the actual size of the permit area (as determined in square metres or square feet) by 1.11 square metres or 12 square feet per person.

For example:

  • 30 m x 60 m = 1,800 square metres ÷ 1.11 = 1,621 persons; or

  • 100 ft x 200 ft = 20,000 sq.ft. ÷ 12 = 1,666 persons.

The capacity for any location/room/area is the lesser of the occupant load set by Fire and/or Building departments and the estimated capacity as calculated above.

NOTE: It is the permit holder’s responsibility to ensure these capacities are correct and are not exceeded during the permit event.

Outdoor Events

Outdoor events are those which take place outdoors or in a temporary structure, such as a tent, marquee, pavilion or tiered seating (e.g. bleacher seating, stadium-type seating, seating arranged in sloping tiers).

The outdoor area must be clearly defined and separated from areas where the permit does not apply. Please provide a detailed sketch showing the dimensions of the area for which the permit will apply (see example below).

The permit holder must also provide written notice to the clerk of the municipality, police, fire and health departments informing them of the event, and include a sketch identifying the physical boundaries. If a tent, marquee, pavilion or tiered seating is used, the local building department should be notified.

Copies of all letters sent to authorities must be retained, as the permit holder may be required to include them with the application or make them available upon request.


Sale of Liquor

This question must be answered “yes” if money will be collected for liquor either directly, through the sale of liquor or drink tickets at the event (e.g. cash bar, sale of drink tickets), or indirectly through the sale of admission, membership fees or the collection of money for liquor before the event.

Invited Guests 

If the event is not open to the public, and for invited guests only, answer “yes” to this question.

If the event is open to the public and has been or will be advertised, answer “no” to this question.

Required Documentation

If the event includes any of the following, the applicant should retain copies of all letters sent to municipal authorities, as they will be required as part of the application process:

  • Any tiered seating;

  • Outdoor Public Events involving liquor sales licensed establishments (e.g. Outdoor Street Festival);

  • Public Events requiring a municipal resolution or letter from a delegated municipal official designating the event as “municipally significant” – see Section 6.

The following documents may be required for the application:

  • Notification Letter – For any outdoor event (public, private or industry promotional)

  • Detailed Sketch - For Public, Private or Industry Promotional events if the event is being held outdoors.

  • Letter of Support - For Public, Private or Industry Promotional events if the event is being held by a representative of a foreign government.

  • Municipal Resolution - For Public events of municipal significance, or outdoor Public events that involve liquor licensed establishments.

  • Involvement of liquor licensed establishments - For outdoor Public events involving liquor sales licensed establishments, an agreement between the permit holder and each participating liquor sales licence holder must be submitted to the AGCO at least 30 days prior to the event date.

  • Letter of Authorization - Event organizers conducting. sampling at an Industry Promotional event may be required to produce a letter of authorization from the Manufacturer or AGCO Licensed Representative.

Note: Supplemental documents may be provided to support the review of the application.

Section 8: Purchase and Storage of Liquor for a SOP Event

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Generally, all liquor sold or served at a permitted event must be purchased in Ontario through a government store or a store authorized under the Liquor Licence and Control Act. This includes any LCBO store, LCBO Agency store, The Beer Store, or any authorized manufacturer’s retail store. Some exceptions for purchasing liquor under the permit may apply.

Applicants should contact the Canada Revenue Agency for information concerning any collection of Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) or other obligations they may have related to the HST and the sale of liquor under the permit.

The permit and product receipts for all liquor products purchased under the permit must be readily available during the SOP event for presentation upon request by AGCO Compliance Officials.

Donated Liquor

Public events conducted by charitable organizations registered under the Income Tax Act and non-profit organizations/associations may accept liquor donated by manufacturers of liquor. Records (such as receipts or invoices) for all products must be obtained by the SOP holder and must be made available for inspection.

Homemade Wine and/or Beer

Homemade wine and beer can only be served (not sold) at a private event such as a wedding, anniversary, or other family special occasion. The wine/beer must be made by a member of the family hosting the event and the permit holder must have acquired it free of charge. The permit holder may not sell the wine/beer.

Homemade wine or beer may be served at an event hosted by a club/association/group whose objects are the testing, exhibition and judging of wine and/or beer made by its members. Wine and/or beer may only be served to members of the club/association/ group. No service is allowed to the public. These events must be “no sale” events and liquor must be served without charge.

Storage of Liquor

Liquor that has not been consumed must be removed from the premises at the end of the event. When returning unopened liquor purchased from a government store, the applicant must produce the permit and a copy of the payment records (e.g. receipts and/or invoices). Check with the retailer at which the liquor was purchased for further details.

If a multiple day event permit is issued, the permit holder may store liquor in accordance with the standards and requirements established by the Registrar.

Section 9: Changes to an Event/Permit

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If there is a change to the permit area(s) or the event after the permit is issued (such as a change in location, date, event type, estimated attendance and/or capacity, the addition of tiered seating in outdoor areas, or the addition of participating licensees) the permit holder must submit a change request. In some cases, a new permit may be required.

If the permit holder does not notify the AGCO, administrative action may be taken against the permit holder including, but not limited to, the immediate revocation of the SOP. Application fees are non-refundable.

Section 10: Other Requirements

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The permit holder may advertise or promote the availability of liquor only in accordance with the standards and requirements established by the Registrar.


The permit holder must provide sufficient security to ensure that the conditions of the permit and the standards and requirements established by the Registrar are observed.

Server Training

Smart Serve Ontario offers a responsible liquor service training program for the Ontario hospitality industry. While not a requirement, permit holders and/or their staff may wish to consider taking this training to learn more about safe and responsible sale and service of liquor. For more information, please contact Smart Serve Ontario (see Key Liquor Industry Contacts).