Tuesday, February 28, 2006

men and women drinking together: the end of civilization in pre-1970 ontario

This week's trip back in time via Detroit: A Young Guide to the City takes us not to Motown but a place to stand, a place to grow, Ontari-ari-ari-o. While Windsor may now be a haven for underage boozers, back then cross-border tipplers had to deal with our crazy blue laws. Regulated glass sizes and servings, gender-specific drinking rules, liquor stores akin to a Sears Catalogue counter with less decor and bottles given to you with a shameful look in a brown paper bag (oooooh, you're buying booze...shame, shame!).

Here's what the guide had to say about our drinking rules:

It is one of Ontario's dubious distinctions to have some of the most confusing liquor laws ever devised...under no circumstances may alcoholic beverages be consumed anywhere other than one's residence or on licensed premises. For legal purposes, a "residence" has recently been redefined to include temporary residences; therefore, motel rooms, tents, etc. can now be considered legal drinking places.

Licensed premises include taverns, hotels, supper clubs, dining rooms and houses. Houses, for example Bridge House or Dominion House, serve no liquor, only beer, ale and occasionally wine. Houses sell both draught and bottled beer, but the draught beer is highly recommended. At twenty cents a glass, it is one of Ontario's great bargains. Ale may also be purchased for the same price, but it must be specifically requested.

Until very recently, most pubs were partitioned by law into a "men's beverage room" and a "ladies' and escorts' room". Only men were to be served in the men's beverage room, but women could drink in the ladies' and escorts' room with or without escorts. Men could enter this room to scout out willing female companions; however, if invitations were not forthcoming, males were required to leave. Actually, only one female per table (or group of tables) is required to qualify as "ladies and escorts". This law has been revoked by the Ontario Liquor Licensing Board and is now enforced strictly by the whim of the pub owner. (263, 269)

Note: the two bars mentioned in this excerpt, unlike many of those listed in the book, still function as watering holes near the University of Windsor. I've never been in either; the only bar-like place I've ever been to on the west side of Windsor is the long-gone South Campus Place on Huron Church, where once a year my father and I would polish off crocks of cheese-crusted french onion soup (still among the best I've ever had) and thick burgers. - JB

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