Sir, I Think You’ve Had Enough

Spend enough time in a bar (on either side of the pine) and you’ll eventually hear those words. In some establishments you hear them more than others. So what happens when a patron has had too much to drink, or is being unruly, and the bartender decides it’s time for him or her to move along?

More often than not good-natured customers understand when they’ve reached (or exceeded) their limit, and after being “cut-off” head out into the night under their own steam. Sometimes it takes gentle encouragement by a staff member. In rare cases bouncers or the police must become involved. In these latter and unfortunate circumstances it is paramount that bar owners and managers ensure that their staff understand the relevant terms of the Liquor Control and Licensing Act to keep themselves, and their customers safe.

Section 46 of the Liquor Control and Licensing Act (preserved in s. 61 of the new Act) provides bar staff with authority to request a person to leave – or forbid them from entering the premises in the first place – if they believe the presence of that person in the establishment is undesirable, or the person is intoxicated.

Reaching the conclusion that a patron’s presence is “undesirable” is discretionary and Alcohol & Advocacy urges bar owners and managers to discuss with their staff what factors will make a patron’s presence undesirable in that establishment.

All bar staff in British Columbia are required to possess a Serving it Right certificate, so staff members should be able to confidently assess whether or not a patron is intoxicated based on objective factors. Bar owners and managers should ensure that staff take a uniform approach to such assessments, and that ongoing training is provided on the signs of intoxication.

If a manager or staff member (bartender, doorman, waiter or otherwise) requests a patron to leave the establishment, and the patron fails to do so, that patron has committed an offence punishable on summary conviction (which if convicted could make them liable to a fine of not more than $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not more than six months – but penalties that severe are very unlikely).

After being requested to leave, the patron may not return to the establishment for 24 hours.

Importantly s.46 of the Act provides express statutory authority for police to arrest a person, without warrant, who has remained in an establishment after he or she has been requested to leave. This is an important provision in the Act to ensure the safety of patrons, and a useful tool for management and staff.

Bar owners and managers should keep in mind that police officers who do not regularly respond to calls in the bar district may not be familiar with the effect of s.46 of the Act on their arrest powers. Indeed, as explained in the recent decision R. v. Jacobson, even police officers who themselves are former bouncers may not be aware of this provision. For this reason industrious bar staff should consider keeping a copy of the Act on hand for ease of reference should the situation require it.

If you or your staff have questions or concerns about the Liquor Control and Licensing Act, or how to interact with unruly or intoxicated customers, contact Dan Coles at Owen Bird.

*Alcohol & Advocacy publishes articles for information purposes only. They are not a substitute for legal advice, and persons requiring such advice should consult legal counsel.

Dan Coles
Retired bartender. Young lawyer. From the East, living in the West. Interested in British Columbia's producers and purveyors of wine, beer and spirits.