Feb 5

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2019 Ontario Drunk Driving Laws

Will New Law Effect Live Music?

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So, in January of 2019 new laws against Impaired Driving and Distracted Driving (cell phones) came into effect with the weight of an anvil.

Now most of us agree that people should not drive drunk, that is pretty much a given across all demographics of the public – it is a horrendous choice by a driver to jump in his car intoxicated and the stats on Canadian roads of those hurt, maimed or killed by drunk drivers is staggering at best. Not to mention that concentric costs of law suits, medical expense and disability costs to the victims.

The question some are asking now is have we gone to far on the pendulum?

Being pulled over now and told to take a breathalyzer by Police is NOT a choice anymore, it is an iron clad demand by law enforcement – and the penalties for refusal are heavy.

Refusal to take a road side breathalyzer will now result in:

1)    A fine up to $2,000.00

2)    Driver’s license being suspended for 90 days

3)    Your vehicle being impounded for 7 days.


Fines for blowing over have now been ratcheted up for a lower guideline such as a fine of $1,000.00 for blood alcohol of 80-119 mg, 3 demerit points and a 3-day suspension all within the window of two hours of last ingesting alcohol and driving.

We all agree that any steps that removes drunk drivers from the road is a good thing, no argument there – now let’s look at how this effects live music venues.


What I personally have been hearing from servers is that even though there are fair sized crowds in venues they are working at – people are drinking far less or not at all.

We all praise that one person in a group who designates themselves the DD for the night so that their friends can drink, and they assume the responsibility of staying sober to drive their friends home. Yet at the same time there was a large percentage of patrons who spaced out their drinks so that they could still have a few but not blow over nor be impaired – that seems to be now changing.

Whether it be fear, a more guarded attitude to their social drinking, it seems that according to the servers who see this first hand, that people are now nursing one or two beers over a five-hour period or choosing a single drink and then water the rest of the night. Now I’m not saying this is good or bad, but the effects are as such: servers are not making as much money working their shifts from tips and the venue is not making as much money from bar sales which in turn effect their bottom line which in turn over a long period of time will determine how many bands they hire and what they are willing to pay for those bands.


I’ve heard words to describe the new law as heavy-handed, draconian to quote a few and it is a balancing act between allowing adults to make their own choices and assuring public safety.


How this will play out come the summer months when venues are competing with patio parties at homes, camping and assorted other distractions in the warm weather is to be determined – but from what I have heard already at numerous London venues the shock waves are already starting to take effect.


Jim McCormick – Allstage