CBC Digital Archives

A 1969 survey of provincial drinking laws

It's not just the water that flows freely in Canada. Brewing, distilling and wine-making have long thrived here, and not even Prohibition could turn off the taps. Despite tight controls on the purchase and consumption of liquor, Canadians kept on drinking, and laws were gradually relaxed in the 1960s and '70s. Then alcohol's darker side came to light: teen drinking, drunk driving, fetal alcohol syndrome and a terrible toll on aboriginal communities. CBC Digital Archives traces Canada's changing relationship with the bottle.

Imagine stepping into a liquor store, choosing a bottle from the shelf, walking over to the cashier and paying for it. In the 1960s, self-serve liquor stores are a new concept in Canada, and other laws are gradually loosening up. But Canadians want more: drinking on Sunday, extended store hours, women in Quebec taverns and more sophisticated cocktail lounges. CBC-TV's Take 30 surveys the provincial patchwork of liquor laws in this 1969 clip. 
• As noted in this clip, British Columbia opened the first self-serve liquor store in 1962. Ontario and New Brunswick did the same in 1969, and in 1971 Manitoba's first self-serve store was a boutique located in a downtown Hudson's Bay store.

• Before the self-serve era, liquor purchasers perused a list of available booze, filled out a form and handed it to a clerk, who then retrieved the bottle. Buyers in most provinces also had to buy a permit, like a passbook, that had to be presented with each purchase.

• In Manitoba in the 1970s, bars had a mandatory closing period between 7 p.m. and 7:30 to allow staff to clean up from the after-work crowd and get ready for the evening shift. A CBC-TV program showed Winnipeggers huddling in their frozen cars to wait out the half-hour. 

Medium: Television
Program: Take 30
Broadcast Date: March 21, 1969
Host: Paul Soles
Reporter: Marilyn MacDonald, Colin MacLean, André Payette, Marjorie Gage
Duration: 25:07

Last updated: February 13, 2014

Page consulted on February 13, 2014

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