Bar patrons in Ontario will soon be able to take their drinks into the washroom with them, a change club operators say should have happened a long time ago.
Ontario Minister Of Government Services Gerry Phillips announced the proposed changes to the province’s Liquor Licensing Act – which dates back to 1944 – this month.
Currently, the act prohibits anyone at a bar, club or restaurant from entering a washroom with a drink. Phillips says the changes were proposed because of the risks posed to women leaving their drinks unattended, making them susceptible to so-called date rape drugs such as GHB and Rohypnol (both illegal in Canada, both of which are used recreationally by some gay men).
In gay bars, however, the problem is not so much date rape, but the nuisance of not being able to take your drink into a washroom. The bars often pay for extra security to make sure no one smuggles a drink into the can.
“This is something that is long overdue,” says George Pratt, owner of George’s Play, which pays at least $150 a night to police the washrooms. “It’s been a huge pain in the ass.”
Pratt says he’s seen his share of angry patrons, particularly US tourists, who are unaware of the law and do not like being told they must leave their drinks unattended.
“I’m 60 years old, and I remember when going out meant you sat down to have dinner and a drink, and then you left. You would never think of getting up from the table with a drink. But now it’s a different environment in the clubs. People walk around with their drinks, so why shouldn’t they be able to take them into the washrooms?”
Woody’s general manager Dean Odorico welcomes the changes, but he’s unsure how much people’s behavior would change. Patrons are now accustomed to leaving their drinks with friends. A couple of years ago Woody’s placed a left-drinks table outside the washrooms, but people weren’t enthusiastic about it.
“No one wants to leave their drinks unattended,” says Odorico. “I wouldn’t want to leave my drink.”
Of course, even when the changes to the law are finalized, the onus will still fall on bars and clubs to apply to change their liquor licences in order to allow drinks in washrooms. Government officials say they do not know how much it will cost to apply for the change.