Information Sheet: House Policies


House Policies

Restaurant workers discussing policies

As a liquor sales licensee, you want to remain compliant with Ontario’s liquor laws. Establishing policies for running your business can help you do so. These “house policies” can provide guidelines for your staff on how to handle challenging situations, such as when to stop serving alcohol to a patron.

In creating your own house policies, you may find the following suggestions helpful. 

  1. House policies should be put in writing. They should be communicated to and understood by your staff, and supported by management. 
  2. Your staff should know that you will back them up when they deny service to minors and intoxicated patrons or ask a disruptive patron to leave.
  3. House policies are not the law. They do not override your regulatory obligations under the Liquor Licence and Control Act, 2019 (LLCA), its accompanying regulations, and the Registrar’s Interim Standards and Requirements for Liquor. 
  4. It is your responsibility as a liquor sales licensee to ensure you and your staff remain informed of applicable laws, regulations and standards.

Below are items that you may want to consider including in your house policies. You can modify the list to meet your own needs.

Monitor your door

  1. Ensure patrons are of legal drinking age. Request valid, government-issued photo ID.
  2. Provide adequate lighting at the door to allow staff to properly check ID.
  3. Deny entry to intoxicated people.
  4. Post a sign indicating that management reserves the right to deny entry to intoxicated and/or underage people.
  5. Count the number of people in your establishment to prevent overcrowding—and remember to include staff in your count. If your establishment has multiple licensed areas, you can’t combine their capacities when counting people: you have to make sure that the number of people in each separate area doesn’t exceed the capacity for that area. 
  6. You and your staff/security are responsible for monitoring capacity, so ensure staff/security are aware of the respective capacities of all your establishment's licensed areas.
  7. Allow AGCO inspectors to access and inspect the premises.
  8. Ensure that security or staff at the door periodically check outside the establishment to maintain order.

Actively market food

  1. Provide a range of food selections.
  2. Offer reduced food prices during late afternoon/evening.
  3. Have low-cost snacks or food available at all times. 

Promote non-alcoholic drinks and price them competitively

  1. Stock and promote light and non-alcoholic beer and wine. 
  2. Price non-alcoholic drinks lower than alcoholic drinks, and promote them on tent cards.
  3. Ensure staff are aware of minimum pricing requirements. 
  4. Serve non-alcoholic drinks in containers that clearly distinguish them from alcoholic drinks.

Train staff

  1. Ensure that your staff have valid Smart Serve training certifications and updated training.
  2. Meet regularly with all staff to identify and address problems. Recognize their good work and reinforce your house policies.
  3. Provide all staff with a copy of your house policies.
  4. Keep an incident log of problem situations. Regularly review the log with all staff and educate them about best practices for dealing with incidents.
  5. Prohibit drinking on the job by all staff and managers.
  6. Post a list of emergency numbers in a prominent place.
  7. Ensure staff are aware of the proper procedures in case of an emergency.

Adopt a safe transportation plan for patrons

  1. Identify transportation options for intoxicated patrons, and confirm relevant arrangements with outside transportation companies.
  2. Ensure that the contact information for taxis or other transportation providers is easily accessible to all staff. 
  3. Advertise your plan.

Never employ underage servers or serve underage patrons

  1. Verify that all servers are at least 18 years old and Smart Serve-certified to sell and serve alcoholic beverages. 
  2. Establish policies on when to ask for identification from patrons.
  3. Train staff on how to identify underage patrons, including how to recognize and handle fake IDs.
  4. Remind staff that they are responsible for preventing service to minors—even if patrons have been IDed at the door. It is the server’s responsibility to not serve minors. Servers should ask for ID if they have any doubt about a patron’s age.
  5. Train staff on acceptable forms of identification. 

Monitor drinking by patrons and discourage intoxication

  1. Provide staff with guidelines for recognizing the signs of intoxication and dealing with patrons who appear to be intoxicated.
  2. Closely monitor the service of alcohol to patrons to prevent them from becoming intoxicated. Suggest to patrons who are intoxicated that they may wish to consume some water or food.
  3. Limit the number of drinks you will sell to an individual at one time.
  4. Discourage patrons from playing “drinking games” or drinking too much. 
  5. Provide staff with guidance on how to properly and closely monitor areas with bottle service.  Consider having an additional policy for this area. Take preventative measures, such as placing pour spouts on bottles and designating staff/security nearby to ensure responsible drinking (e.g., preventing drinking directly from bottles, removing the bottle when patrons  don’t comply).

Manage the intoxicated patron

  1. Deny entry to intoxicated patrons.
  2. Develop a policy for dealing with patrons who appear to be intoxicated. Ensure staff are aware of the policy and know how to implement it.

Advertise your policy

  1. Promote your house policies to patrons (e.g., by using tent cards, posters). Indicate that you will not allow anyone to drink to the point of intoxication.
  2. Promote your position to the public at large (e.g., on your website or through social media).
  3. Develop a mission statement and post it prominently. Sample: “The goal of our establishment is to provide safe, courteous, and professional service. We will serve patrons in a responsible and friendly manner. Staff are on hand to assist patrons drink in moderation and, where appropriate, avoid drinking activities that put themselves or others at harm or risk. Management adheres to all liquor laws.”
  4. Advise staff that infractions can result in the suspension or revocation of your Liquor Sales Licence. 

Deny sale and service of alcohol outside prescribed times

Ensure staff know when alcohol can be sold and served (9:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.), and when all evidence of the sale, service and consumption of alcohol has to be cleared from the licensed areas (2:45 a.m.).

Prevent disorderly behaviour on your premises

Set a house policy for dealing with disorderly behaviour, including illegal gambling, fighting, and illegal drug use.

More Information

For more information, visit us online at or contact AGCO Customer Service anytime. You can also call us at 416-326-8700 or 1-800-522-2876 (toll-free in Ontario), Monday – Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.