Questions related to a Permit, License and Insurance is a super common question for people to ask us! We get it almost daily so decided to put together a page that will guide you into making the correct decisions regarding which permits to get, and whether you need gambling licenses, and if it is mandatory to get Insurance. The AGCO (Alcohol & Gaming Commission of Ontario) does update their policies from time to time, so it is best to cross reference our suggestions with their website, however we do regular market research to try and stay on top of this as best as we can. Scroll down and you will find the most up to date information that we have!
You need one of these before you can even consider holding an event that sells alcohol! Be sure to visit the AGCO Website as well as check with the hall to make sure you are following all of their rules too, as you don’t want to have any future issues due to a misunderstanding. Special Occasions Permit or SOP seems complicated at first, but we assure you they are not! Also know that the advice we give in this article, is based on what we knew at the time of writing this. The AGCO can at any time review and rewrite their policies so this is just a guideline.
Not sure which kind of SOP to get? See THIS PAGE for a quick summary. If you are having a Stag & Doe, you are having a Private Event and will need a Sale Permit.
The AGCO is full of information, and they put together this 1 minute video if you want to really understand the process!
One other thing that the AGCO has done for you, is put together a Tip Sheet from May 2017 that should make things pretty clear for you and answer any legality questions:AGCO TIP SHEET
Do you need a “Private”, “Public” or “Industrial” Special Occasions Permit (also known as a SOP)? Did you need a “Sale Permit” or a “No Sale Permit”? Decisions, decisions! We will break it down for you below.
A “Private Event” with a “Sale Permit” is what most of our customers end up getting for Stag & Doe’s and Fundraisers, which will cost you $150 per day.
The Permit Holder has some responsibilities: They must be present the whole event and be responsible for safety and sobriety of guests, as well as ensure that the event is run properly and in compliance with the Liquor License Act.
We are only going to talk about Private and Public Events on this page, but scroll down to see the AGCO’s tip sheet for more info on the 3 Types of Permits available.
- Meant for Stag & Doe’s and smaller events
- You can only have invited guests (have a guest list)
- There can be no intention to profit from the sale of alcohol at the event
- You CANNOT advertise the event publicly
- You CAN advertise through social media which is not available for viewing by general public
- There can be no unlawful gambling
- If indoor, must submit application at least 10 days prior. If outdoor it is 30 days prior
- This is a great article to read: CLICK HERE as it explains in more detail what the AGCO recommends for a Private Event
- Meant for a Charitable Organization or Not-for-Profit Organizations
- Raise funds for charitable purposes (education, religion, relief of poverty, community, etc)
- You are allowed to publicly advertise
- You can offer alcohol as a prize if there is a lottery license issued to you
- Must submit application at least 30 days prior if indoor or outdoor
- The cost is $150 per day
- Required when there is an admission charge for the event
- Alcohol is a cash bar, or people buy tickets to get drinks
No Sale Permit
- The cost is $35 per day
- Alcohol is served but is free
- No money is collected for alcohol
- Permit holder absorbs all costs related to alcohol
If you still want more clarification, read the AGCO’s Tip Sheet below. Otherwise, time to get started and fill out their application! CLICK HERE to get started.AGCO-TIP-SHEET
When you choose a hall, they may have a bartender who manages their own sale of drinks, or they may allow you to bring in your own drinks and serve it. We would say that for a Fundraiser, people do tend to run their own bars. If your event is more of a Birthday party for example where you have staff waiting on you, entertainment paid for, etc., then have the hall also take care of this. But at Fundraisers, it is common to see the volunteers running around like a chicken with their heads cut off, because the whole point is to make money, and therefore do things yourself! You gotta put in the man hours to see the payoff. Below we will break it down for you, so that you can decide which option suits you best.
Hall Runs Bar
Let us assume that the hall is running the bar, and they charge $4 per drink. You can charge $5 per drink, so that you still make $1 off each beer sold. In most cases the hall runs the bar, so make sure they have a good variety of alcohol in stock. Generally, the hall rental will be much cheaper if they supply the alcohol since this will create more income for the hall. This can save you a ton of headaches as you do not have to worry about purchasing the alcohol in advance, transporting it there, finding people to run the bar with you, ensure they have their Smart Serve, etc.
You Run your Own Bar
If you run your bar instead and charged $5 per drink, the profit is much higher as the beer probably only cost you $2 from the case – however like we mentioned, there is a lot more to it! You have to take into account the cost of straws, beer cups, ice, bartenders, Permit to sell alcohol, etc. Running your own bar will include more work and more initial investment, not to mention liabilities. Make sure that you aware of your city by-laws as well. Have someone you trust serve the drinks who is Smart Served, or you can have a buddy obtain their Smart Serve Certification online for $34.95+tax.
So What does Jack of all Spades Recommend?
Should I run my own bar or get the hall to run the bar? Such a common question we get! If you are expecting a drinking crowd, then you will want to run the bar yourself as the profits are enticing. But if you don’t want the hassle and money might not be your driving force, then have the hall run the bar on your behalf. Your choice!
Here is a a quote from a spokesperson representing the AGCO (Alcohol & Gaming Commission of Ontario):
“If someone wants to have a party, the private event [Special Occasions Permit] allows them to serve alcohol at a location where there is no permit. …Alcohol can be sold, but not to make a profit, or it can be served at no charge. Because the event is private, it cannot be advertised. …If the facility does have a permit …the event may be advertised, and alcohol may be sold at a profit since it’s being served by trained staff.”
In this article, she was also quoted saying:
A public event with a special occasion permit, often run by a charity, not for profit organization or religious group, can advertise and profit from the sale of alcohol, with the intent of putting the proceeds back into the community for projects or programs. However, a buck and doe falls under the category of private event, where no advertising is allowed and alcohol isn’t meant to be a money maker.
We have heard some say that the AGCO recommends that when it comes to alcohol sales, permit holders can’t make a profit. Instead, permit holders will have to come up with an expense sheet outlining how their alcohol revenue will ONLY cover their expenses.
You should sell Drink Tickets for around the $4 or $5 mark, but it really does depend on which city you are in. You see, in the Niagara region, they tend to price things cheaper and you might even see $3.50 drinks. The closer to Burlington, the prices will be around $5 or even $6. Head over to Toronto and you can expect prices closer to $7 or $8. If you run your own bar or if the hall runs the bar might also dictate your prices so that you are still making a profit.
Also, remember that you cannot discount drinks – so you cannot offer $5 per drink or two drinks for $8 as an example. It is illegal! So if they are part of a package, you can discount the package if offering raffle tickets or game tickets, but you cannot discount the drink ticket part.
Choose 2-4 types of beer – that is it! People will always find a beer they like based on the choices you offer. Nobody is going to listen to the beer choices, and say “no thank you – you don’t have my brand”. They will be fine! Make all beers the same price, and don’t have premium beers if this is a fundraiser. Keep it simple! So we suggest around $4 if you are in the Niagara area, or $5 if in the Grimsby/Stoney Creek/Hamilton areas. Burlington you might want to go up to $5 or $6. Use the Beer Ticket for this one – and if you decide to have premium beers despite our recommendation, then choose 2 colours of Beer Tickets to distinguish them.
Some people might want to do shots, but again keep it simple! Have 3-4 hard liquor options available (vodka, rye, rum) and don’t worry about tequila or speciality shots. Keep this price the same as the Beer price to again keep things simple. Use the Liquor Ticket for this one if you are selling it for a different price than Beer.
Don’t sell coolers or ciders at your Fundraiser! Sorry, were we too blunt there?! These are fantastic for people attending a Fundraiser, as people like options. But Coolers are pricey, and then you have to charge more for these plus have a different type of ticket to sell for them. This causes a tiny bit more work for the people selling the tickets, and a tiny more brain power for the bartenders when distinguishing the different coloured liquor tickets. If you charge the same price for a Cooler as you do for a Beer, then you will be out profit wise. They are a fun option, but your profit margin is drastically decreased. We recommend you to just stay away from these altogether at Fundraisers.
Jello Shooters / Pudding Shots / Drunken Gummy Bears
You can sell these at the bar, but probably what is most profitable for you, would be to have some pretty girls walking from table to table selling these. I know that is totally sexist to say… but you know we are right. Have 2 flavours to choose from, there is no need to offer more than that. Just like our Beer comment, people won’t turn them down because you don’t have their favourite flavour. They will choose between one of the two options, we assure you! Most people charge $1 but some charge $2 especially if they are a bit bigger of a cup. These you usually just sell with money rather than getting a special ticket for them, but if you have set up to use tickets, then use a Refreshment Ticket. We recommend that you find the cups that have lids on them so that they can be stacked and kept fresher.
Pop / Juice / Water Bottle
We suggest that you have 2 types of pop and 2 types of juices – something like gingerale, coke, cranberry juice, and orange juice. These make for great mixers! You would use a Refreshment Ticket for these, and we recommend only selling them for $2 each can/glass. Water bottles can also use the same Refreshment Ticket. If you need to charge different prices for these, then use different colours of the Refreshment Tickets, but as always we encourage you to keep things simple and of the same price.
Ticket Packages are the most common way to sell tickets at Fundraisers now. People have gotten so creative and have come with some great ways to sell Packages. Here is an example of a local girl who put together these Packages. This kind of pricing is very common, but you can change it around however you want!
This trend has people offering 3 types of Packages at a Fundraiser:
Obviously the Couples Package will be the most enticing and will include the liquor tickets, but don’t leave out the Singles! And of course the DD’s need their own package, so we agree with this kind of pricing and try to promote this way of thinking. It encourages people to spend more than they might have originally, but it is easy for them to make decisions too. People want to go once, buy a Package, then sit down. They don’t want to keep going up to buy one ticket at at time whenever they need it. We really cannot see any downfalls with offering Ticket Packages. We just encourage you to be fair in your pricing and not overcharge by being greedy. You want people to feel like they are getting a deal, which is the way you are supposed to feel when you buy a Package deal. Now lets take a closer look:
This is what we have seen as being a common Couples Package, and we have seen them for somewhere between $40 – $60. We think this is a fair offering and it is the most popular package purchased.
- 4 beer tickets
- 2 refreshment tickets
- 4-6 grand prize tickets
- 2 penny sale sheets (or 2 arms lengths of Raffle Tickets)
The Singles will have about half the amount offered in a Couples Package, and it would be about half the price, plus a tiny bit more. It is common to see the Singles Packages for around $25 – $35. It might include:
- 2-3 beer tickets
- 1 refreshment ticket (optional)
- 2 grand prize tickets
- 1 penny sale sheet (or an arms length of Raffle Tickets)
This Package won’t have any alcoholic beverage tickets and will be the cheapest package offered. We commonly see this Package listed for between $15 – $25. It might include:
- 2-3 refreshment tickets
- 2-3 grand prize tickets
- 1 penny sale sheet (or an arms length of Raffle Tickets)
Nevertheless, having Ticket Packages is a great way to earn more money. Otherwise, a couple may approach the booth, and just get 2 beer tickets, 1 grand prize ticket, and 1 penny sale sheet only. So you are definitely encouraging people to buy more by offering Packages! Important Note: You cannot specifically say that they end up getting a free beer by getting a package. Instead you must be careful by saying that the liquor prices have not been discounted somewhere on your sign.
You will also want to have a separate sign advertising what they are per ticket, because some people are just more comfortable with that. Or they might have already bought a Package and just need 1 more drink. So make sure that is clearly outlined on a sign right next to it, how much you are selling per refreshment ticket, liquor ticket, beer ticket, penny sale sheet, or raffle ticket, or even game ticket. Just make sure you are not discounting drinks, as that is illegal (buy 1 drink ticket for $5 or 5 drinks for $20).
Here are some ideas (and have a pic of the ticket beside it as people are visual):
- Liquor Ticket: $5 (if in Hamilton region, $4 if in Niagara region, $6 if in Halton region)
- Refreshment Ticket: $2
- Raffle Ticket: $10 for 5 tickets, $15 for arms length, $20 for wing span
- Penny Sale Sheet: $10
- 50/50 Tickets: 5 for $5, or 15 for $10
- Grand Prize Ticket: $5 each or 3 for $10
Keep it Simple!
Just don’t confuse people with having too many options, or don’t confuse them by being too wordy or having a busy sign. Keep in mind that a confused mind says NO and will instead opt for the simplest thing, and therefore you could lose out on potential profit!
If you have some different ideas on pricing, make some comments below!
Trying to figure out how many cases of Drinks to buy for your Fundraiser is certainly a huge task to take on – You don’t want too little, and don’t want too much! On average, each guest may drink 2 to 4 drinks, so you can use this number to judge how many drinks to buy. All of our rolls of Drink Tickets come in rolls of 1000. We will estimate that 30% of them are beer drinkers, 40% of them are mixed drink drinkers, 10% are wine drinkers, and 20% of them are non-alcoholic drinkers (pop/water) – so let’s say 10% will just drink pop, and 10% will just drink water.
Knowing this will also help you decide how many cups to purchase. Does that help? Of course, this is just a guide and you will know your crowd the best. We strongly advise you to buy MORE than you need, as things are fairly easy to return. Just advise your bartenders NOT to open up everything in the bar, and only open the case when its ready to use.
So we have a formula for you! Just follow this formula, and it will help guide you to decide how many drinks to purchase ahead of time. Some people will have 6 drinks, others will have 1. We are using an estimate of 4 per person to simplify things, and encourage you to do the same. It is probably more like 2-3, but we have inflated it, because is easy to return later on if you purchased too many.
Take the number of people expected to come x 0.3 (30% of guests drink beer) x 4 (4 drinks per person) / 24 (number of beers per case) = number of cases of 24 beers to buy. If you are using 3 kinds of beer, take that number and divide it buy 3 so you know how many of each brand of beer to buy (assuming you think people will drink all equally). Change this to 28 if you buy cases of 28.
ie) 150 expected to come x 0.3 = 45 people will drink beer
45 people x 4 drinks each = 180 beers to buy
180 beers / 24 per case = 7.5 cases to buy in total
7.5 cases / 3 brands = 3 cases of 24 beers, of EACH brand to buy
Take the number of people expected to come x 0.4 (40% of guests drink beer) x 4 (4 drinks per person) = number of people who will have mixed drinks. Give this number to the LCBO and they will advise you how many bottles of each to get – they are the experts in this area!
ie) 150 people expected x 0.4 = 60 people will drink mixed drinks
60 people x 4 per person = 240 mixed drinks will need to be made
Now give this number to the LCBO and they will direct you on what to buy
Mixers for Hard Liquor
Take number above from Hard Liquor and divide it by the number of mixers you want (usually gingerale, coke, cranberry juice, orange juice) assuming you think it will be equal amounts. So in this case you would divide that number by 4, and this will tell you how many people will be drinking each type of mixer. We will call this “X”. Then look at how many millilitres of mixer would be added to each cup, and multiply that by X, then divide that by how many millilitres are in each bottle/carton. This will tell you how many bottles or cartons to buy of EACH mixer.
ie) 240 (number from above which was how many mixed drinks to be made)
Take that number of 240 / 4 types of mixers = 60 people will be drinking a mixed drink
50ml of mixer will be added to each drink x 60 people = 3000 ml is needed in total of mixers
3000ml needed in total of mixers / 1000 (each bottle has 1000ml) = 3 bottles
So 3 bottles of EACH mixer is what you need to buy
Take the number of people attending and multiply it by 0.1 (10% of guests will drink wine only) x 4 (4 drinks per person) = number of glasses of wine to pour in total. Assuming that your guests will equally enjoy red and white, divide this number by 2 to find out how many glasses of wine you will need to put for red AND white. You should really just stick with super generic brands that will appeal to the most amount of people. Make sure to have a white AND red option, but don’t have any more than the two to choose from. Buying boxed wine is the easiest to work with, and the cheapest for you in the long run.
ie) 150 people expected to come x 0.1 = 15 people will be wine drinkers
15 people x 4 drinks per person = 60 drinks of wine to be served
60 drinks / 2 types of wine = 30 red to be served, 30 white to be served
Take this number to the LCBO and they will help you decide which one to get
Take the number of people expected to come x 0.1 (10% of guests will drink pop only) x 4 (4 drinks per person) = number of cans to buy for people just drinking pop. If you have 3 types of pop, then take that number and divide by 3 and this will tell you how many people will be drinking each kind of pop. Remember to add this number to whatever you got from the previous calculation.
ie) 150 people expected to come x 0.1 = 15 people will drink pop
15 people drinking pop x 4 drinks per person = 60 cans of pop to buy
60 cans of pop / 3 types of pop = 20 cans of each type of pop to buy for people ONLY drinking pop.
This doesn't include the mixers so add that number to this one.
Take the number of people expected to come x 0.1 (10% of guests will drink water bottles only) x 4 (4 drinks per person) = number of bottles to buy for people just drinking pop. Take this number and divide it by how many bottles are in a case, and that is how many cases of water you should buy. We think Costco sells them in cases of 30 which is the best bang for your buck!
ie) 150 people expected to come x 0.1 = 15 people will drink water
15 people drinking water x 4 bottles per person = 60 bottles needed
60 bottles / 30 per case = 2 cases to buy
Isn’t math fun?! Confused? Don’t be! It is fairly straight forward, just get your calculator out and take good notes. Now whatever you just learned in this above example, add a few on of each!! If you buy too much, just keep your receipts and return the extra pop cases you bought, or juice cartons you bought. Just ensure that they are still sealed. The LCBO and Beer Store will allow returns under some conditions. The AGCO Website says:
When returning unopened alcohol purchased from a government store, you must produce the permit and a copy of your payment records (e.g. receipts and/or invoices). Check with the retailer at which you purchased the alcohol for further details.https://www.agco.ca/sites/default/files/sop1575_english_oct2018.pdf
Typically, The Beer Store will allow up to 20% of the beer you purchased to be returned, as long as it is a perforated case (not glued), you have your Special Occasions Permit with you, the seals of the case are not broken, and it is a full case that is unopened. The LCBO will allow returns as long as you have your receipt and it can be a saleable item again (not used).
Also one quick note, is we recommend to have a table near the bar off to the side, which has plastic cups and a jug of water. That way the bartender won’t be overwhelmed with orders like this, when people can just do this themselves! Shortens the line a bit and gives them a break. All you have to do is put someone on water duty to ensure it is always full!
You have to measure what you are pouring if you want to save money on drinks. Everyone loves a generous drink, but when you are trying to make a profit, you cannot be giving away drinks for free! See this image? That is all you need to know! Beauty!
Also have a sharpie at the bar, and have them write their name on their cup before pouring the drink. Then they can bring this cup back each time, thus saving you money on the cups.
Stay away from buying coolers – although it is nice for people to have some choices, you don’t make as much money on Coolers than you would a Beer or mixed drink. Save the coolers for home parties when entertaining a few close friends.
Lastly, if this is a Fundraiser, DO NOT buy all expensive brands. People will be happy with whatever you are serving. Do not buy super cheap brands too… just buy middle of the road brands that will be crowd pleasers.