There were many more prohibitions about who and who could not be served alcohol in 1910. (submitted)

There were many more prohibitions about who and who could not be served alcohol in 1910. (submitted)

T.W. Paterson column: No women or gambling allowed under revised 1910 liquor laws

All bar-rooms in the province had to close at 11 a.m. Saturdays. No, that’s not a typo!

All bar-rooms in the province had to close at 11 a.m. Saturdays. No, that’s not a typo!

How would we ever celebrate the end of the old year and the beginning of the new without booze?

Seriously, going by the expensive wraparound and centre-page ads in recent issues of the Citizen, liquor is as important to New Year’s celebrations as a tree, presents and turkeys are to Christmas.

Sound cynical? Just try finding a parking spot near any local liquor store these days!

On the ‘positive’ side, it’s the best sales period for government liquor outlets, meaning a spike in revenue for the Liquor Control Board which we, the taxpayers, own. It’s like buying a lottery ticket — the purchase of every bottle is a self-imposed tax.

As we all know, the provincial government has long dictated the conduct of liquor vendors through licensing and a myriad of rules and regulations. By today’s standards, the amended 1910 liquor license law is illuminating. How some things have changed!

Let’s begin with: “The [provincial] superintendent of police has the right to cancel or suspend any license in the province at any time.

“Every hotel must have a bar-room entirely separate and apart from any other room, also a separate sitting room, and a dining room.

“Every hotel must have at least seven guest rooms, with a minimum floor space of 700 square feet, and comfortably furnished.

“Ventilation and facilities for egress in the event of fire must be to the satisfaction of the inspector; also accommodation for the licensee’s family; kitchen, and stabling for at least six horses.

“No one may hold a license who has lost such privilege within three previous years, or has been convicted of a criminal offence.

“No one in any part of the province is permitted to sell liquor or to give it to any chauffeur operating any public vehicle.

“No Women may be served with drink in any public bar-room.

“No gaming shall be permitted on licensed premises, nor any nickel in the slot device.

“Licenses should be requisite for observation cars as well as diners on railways operating in British Columbia.

“No officer or member of the crew of any steamship may be served with drink at the bar of any such steamship.

“No debt is recoverable under $5 for spiritous liquors purchased at one time.

“No liquor shall be served in a hotel, even to a bona fide traveller, during prohibited hours, except with meals.

“All bar-rooms in the province must close at 11 a.m. Saturdays [no, that’s not a typo!—TW], remaining closed throughout Sunday, and such bar-room must be locked and so arranged that all may see that they are [sic] empty and deserted.

“No liquor of any kind may be sold, given or bartered with any dipsomaniac[!], any person of drunken habits, anyone addicted to sprees or debauches, anyone who notoriously wastes his money in drink or riotous living to the detriment of his family or others dependent upon him, any vagrant or tramp, any prostitute, or any Indian [sic]. (First Nations peoples were legally banned from consuming alcohol in Canada, 1884-1985—TW)

“In addition to the above prohibition, the superintendent, inspector, or any chief of police may, at any time, without sworn information or proceeding, forbid by notice to the licensee, the sale of liquor to anyone who by excessive drinking misspends, wastes or lessens his estate, injures his health, or endangers or interrupts the happiness of his family.

“No liquor may be rebottled or relabelled.

“No sale of liquors may be made to ‘joy riders,’ that is, pleasure riders, motorists or drivers, not bona fide travellers.”

Such was the Olympian decree to liquor vendors a la 1910. Obviously, we’ve come a long way since then. Gender, race and profession (I’m referring to the oldest) are no longer at issue, gambling (government controlled lottery) is now encouraged on-premise, and we can drink and “joy-ride” so long as we don’t exceed .008.

Best of all, drunks, debauchees and dipsomaniacs are now welcome at their favourite licensed establishments so long as they’re 19 and solvent.

Happy New Year!

www.twpaterson.com

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