Am I Blue!

Guinness

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ah yes, the Blue Laws, often forgotten, but still not gone.  Ontario is not the most morally repressive place on the planet.  There are places in the Muslim Middle East, matched by the American Bible Belt, where anything even smacking of enjoyment, is flatly forbidden, or fiercely frowned upon.  In Ontario, some killjoy politicians may pass legislation, but after that, it’s just the rule-following sheep who work to prevent the goats from having any fun.

Alcohol and tobacco are moving in opposite directions here.  A recent visit to a smoke shop in Detroit reminded me of what I haven’t seen around here in years – dozens of brands of cigarettes, and cigars, and loose tobacco, cigarette holders, pipes, ash trays, even bongs.

In Ontario, convenience stores are forced to hide all that behind plastic or cardboard covers.  See no sin – do no sin!  That worked so well during Prohibition.  When a pack of smokes is pulled out, the manufacturers are forced to use ¾ of the package to display pictures of diseased organs, rotted teeth, and a saggy cigarette, hanging down in a 90 degree arc, above a notice warning, “Caution!  Smoking may cause impotence.”  F**k you!…..if I could.

Ontario has come a long way towards normalizing alcohol enjoyment and use, but we still have a long way to go.  Up here in ‘civilization’, a “party store” will provide paper hats, candles, confetti, crepe paper, and Happy Birthday banners, whereas, down in the states…..

My childhood neighboring small town was “dry.”  No alcohol of any kind could be bought or sold.  It remained that way for years – as long as the voters could stagger to the polls.  Bootleggers were endemic.  Average alcohol consumption was estimated at twice what my town’s was.

Past, and present, rules often seem to make no sense.  No establishment which serves alcohol may have double-swinging “barroom doors,” whether external or inner access, although Ontario will let you have a beer while you watch naked strippers, something many American locations will not allow.

Bars, and licensed restaurants, have only existed for the last 30/40 years.  Prior to that, hotels provided “beverage rooms,” two per establishment, one for men, and another for “Ladies and Escorts.”  You could have 11 drunks around a table, as long as there was one token female.

Waiters/waitresses could only serve one drink per customer at a time, keeping them constantly moving, bringing out all those singles.  If you saw a friend over in the corner, you were not allowed to pick up your drink and go join him.  The law required the already overworked server to carry your drink over for you.

When bars and lounges started popping up, you still couldn’t order just booze, food had to accompany it.  A round of drinks would include a vending-machine cheese sandwich.  Often, the server would scoop it up with the empties, and re-deliver and charge for it with the next round.

Beer was bought at buildings labelled “Brewers Retail,” until enough confused American tourists forced the monopoly to rebrand clearly, as “The Beer Store.”  There, that wasn’t hard, was it??  😕

They’re starting to sell a bit of beer now, but for years, the government-owned Liquor Control Board monopoly stores sold only wine and distilled spirits.  No spectre of Big Brother there.   In my lifetime, we have come from:

Immediately after WW II, you had to go to the Liquor Store and provide identification and proof of age (21 years).  You were given a small notebook, and were allowed, once a week, to buy only as much as you could list on that week’s page.  If you missed so much as a 2-ounce bottle of bitters for whiskey sours, you were forced to wait until the next week.

In the ‘60s, we moved to a paper slip system.  Write the catalog number of the booze(s) you wanted, and a clerk disappeared into the nether-world of the back room, where, presumably, elves brewed the stuff up, out of the sight of the susceptible public.  Since people didn’t move around, you could be put on The List.  If you were caught drunk in public last Saturday night, the liquor store would refuse to serve you this Thursday, and perhaps for several weeks, until a manager unilaterally decided to annul the sentence.

Finally, we have reached the point where we can actually see the stuff on the shelf, put it in our own little shopping cart, and pay for it at the checkout.  Be careful though.  Some of those weird rules still exist.  “Only people 19+ can legally handle alcohol in LCBO stores.”

A local mother stopped into an LCBO store to pick up an eight-pack of Guinness for her husband.  While she dug her wallet out of her purse, her 17-year-old son helped out by placing the beer on the counter.  The clerk immediately asked him for ID.  He explained that the beer was not for him, but for his mother, who would pay for it, but the Can’t Touch It rule had already come into effect.

She went back and brought a pack up by herself, but now the manager came over, and accused her of buying the beer for a minor.  He claimed that staff is highly trained to prevent “second buying.”  All very noble, but this staff could never be accused of second thinking.

Bureaucracy exists to assure its own continued existence – and some strange restrictions and regulations.

 

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