Beer Over Ontario
Editor's Noie: The author of litis series of articles has in the past made independent surveys of the effects of prohibition and of repeal in the United Stales, and of various systems of liquor control or dispensation in European countries.
Mr. Echlin was engaged by Maclean's to make a tour of Ontario, to observe the results of that province’s new beer legislation, arul to report in a fair manner what he himself actually saw ami heard.
in Ontario the subject is highly controversial. Any conclusions arrived at in these articles are those of the author. Maclean's reserves its own editorial opinion until Mr. Echlin’s report is concluded and until after contemplated changes in the regulations have become effective.
BEER! Twenty million glasses a month, a quarter of a billion a year, with the fond wish of all who are profiting from its sale that, by the hot days of next summer, it will have grown to an even million glasses a day. Thirsty Ontario has reached for the now freely sold beverage with a will to consume that has surprised its most hopeful propagandists. Already, according to the Liquor Control Board’s own figures, though whisky and spirits have fallen off ten ]x*r cent, sales of beer are double those of last year.
What it means in money is more impressive than gallons or glasses. In 1933, thirteen million dollars worth of beer was sold in the Province of Ontarioa decrease of two million dollars under 1932. In the four months since the return of beer, sales have averaged close to two million dollars a month. Except for August, these were cool months. What will it be when the trade is organized, facilities for sale greatly extended and the hot-weather business comes on? Not less, and perhaps considerably more, than twentyfive millions of dollars for beer’s first year.
lo present a picture of these new conditions, outlawed for nearly two decades, 1 began two months ago to visit, day after day, the sites of Ontario’s freedom—the HenryHepburn Beverage Rooms. Given a free hand by the editor of Maclean’s, my only instructions were to bring back the truth and make such observations as seemed to be warranted by the facts.
Almost four thousand miles were covered—from the Quebec line to the Manitoba border; from the Great Lakes to the outposts of the North; through the cities and towns of jxipulous Lower Ontario— Pembroke, Ottawa, Brock ville, Peterborough, Hamilton, London, Windsor, with many side trips into the country around them, Stratford, Kitchener, Guelph, Galt, St. Catharines and Niagara Falls; into dry Grey and Bruce counties; up through Muskoka, empty of tourists, to North Bay and Sudbury: westward to the new mining areas, Long Die and Jellieoe;on to Fort William and Fort Frances; back to Port Arthur and up to Sioux Lookout, from which point I took a long step into Manitoba to see how they handled their beer problem.
Returning, I stopjxxi at Nakina, Hearst, Kapuskasing and Cochrane before dipping down into the goldfields around Timmins, Porcupine and Kirkland Lake. Thence southward through Cobalt and North Bay back to Central Ontario— where the controversy over the Beverage Rooms has never relaxed from the moment the first one oixmed its doors.
The Flow Begins
TIŒ POST-WAR liquor history of the province is brief.
Ontario went dry with the rest of Canada in 1916; resumed sale of liquor by the individual permit system under Government Control in 1927; and established, in July, 1934, a system whereby beer and wine could be sold openly and freely to the public in hotels, clubs and other premises. Bars, saloons and taverns are officially called Beverage Rooms, and patrons must sit to be served. Spirits are sold as before, only in Government stores.
Sale began July 24, a day that promises to go down in history as Tipsy Tuesday. Line-ups of citizens stood outside many of the new rooms unable to get in for the crowds; other hotels sold out well before evening. One big place in the provincial capital sold 15,000 glasses of beer in twelve hours —according to the figures in its own magazine. As I had seen, earlier in the year, a great deal of drinking in half a dozen European countries, New England, New York State and the Middle West, I surveyed this scene in my own province with more than usual interest. With this background, I started my long trip around Ontario to gather information at first hand.
And started, appropriately enough, in the home town of Mitchell F. Hepburn—St. Thomas. There, as at the time of the Armistice in 1918, a double celebration marked the event, for beer flowed five days earlier than in any other part of the province. The first occasion had been the newly-elected Premier’s thirty-eighth birthday; the second was Tipsy Tuesday, July 24. In a hotel where they still had the forbidden open bar, I was listening to how this “just happened” without responsibility or blame to anyone, when I heard that the Liquor Commissioner himself was in town on a tour of inspection.
Proceeding at once to the Beverage Room where he had last been seen, I found that he had just driven off toward Tillsonburg. I was disappointed for I would have liked to have seen him in action.
“Action’s the word,” said my neighbor at the table. “He went through here like nobody’s business; scared the waiter to death, and bawled out the boss for not havin’ his license tacked on the wall.” He pointed to a half sheet of blue paper near the entrance to the serving counter. “There it is; the boss had it up in about a minute.”
I looked around the room. The cheapest of tables and chairs. The odor of new paint and fresh wallpaper mingled unpalatably with the smell of beer. About forty feet by eighteen, there were seats for forty-eight 1 matrons. The bar, in accordance with regulations, had been concealed from view by a thin pine partition stained to imitate oak. Divided into panels by similarly stained pieces of wood, the wallpaper had a Japanese motif where straggly-bearded Nipponese on teetertotters balanced fans and parasols against a purple background. To relieve any unintentional monotony, there was, here and there, a full-bellied um of brilliant flowers in which an incredible bird had nested with her young. As the proprietor surveyed this riot of color, he was obviously pleased with the nice little drinking place he had provided for his customers.
At nine o’clock the room was three-quarters full, with a loud political discussion going on in a comer near the bar. It got hotter and hotter, for the by-election was only a few days off. Before the first blows were struck I saw one heavy-set fellow lean over the table, shake his fist in the angry face of another man and shout: “Not one of the three is worth the powder to—”
around Ontario to gather information at first hand.
Table, chairs and occupants crashed to the floor, but the men came up fighting. Half a dozen near the door left hurriedly; several others helped the proprietor get the fighters outside. Cooled off by the air, they were led peacefully enough in opposite directions. I was told they were friends; farmers from a few miles out of town on opposite sides of the political fence.
Later I was talking to a hotelkeeper about this type of thing.
The trouble is,” he said, “that the fellows running most of these beverage places have never been in the hotel business before. Experienced hotel men running high-class houses would jump on the first man to raise his voice.”
Winking at the Law
CHATHAM S beer parlors were busy and orderly.
. Saturday morning I rolled into Windsor. I didn’t know ~ut ,ere I was to see the only open and deliberate flouting of the law of the whole trip. But Windsor had its excuse ready— ‘competition” from Detroit. During the day I looked over East Windsor. Before the war, its population was comparatively zero. Ten years ago it had about five thousand: now it has more than three times that. It had no hotels. Since the advent of beer, however, this neglect of the travelling public has been remedied: several hotels having blossomed where none grew before. They grew like weeds, so much so that many were cut down within a few weeks by the Liquor Control Board.
Fourteen were cut down in Windsor; but they were not missed, and beds and beer were still plentiful. Afternoon business was brisk, but it was not until early evening that the Beverage Rooms took their full stride and became filled to the doors with men and women. The women were new to me. Neither in St. Thomas nor Chatham, nor in the small towns around them, had I
“Supposed to be a Club”
seen any female drinking. Here there were plenty of women, fully a third of the crowd; the great majority under thirty years of age.
Music, from my reading of the regulations, was forbidden; but in the first swanky Beverage Room I visited, a big radio was tuned in on a New York dance orchestra, adding immensely to the pleasure of the occasion and also furnishing the time for all who cared to dance.
Pretty young barmaids flitted about the room, taking orders and serving beer. The regulations specifically state: “No person other than a male over the age of twenty-one years shall be employed in any Beverage Room,” but these smart operators have apparently found more than one loophole. A charming hostess met me at the door.
“Are you alone, sir? Where would you like to sit?”
Close to me, a father and mother sat drinking beer at a table for four; the other occupants being their two little girls, aged about five and seven. The children had some soft drink.
T WENT ON to some of the lesser places. Many had separate rooms for women and their escorts, or for women alone. In one café two boys and two
Barmaids served the drinks here, but there was no music.
“Why don’t you have music?” I asked.
“Not allowed,” was the succinct reply.
“Well, how do they get away with it over at Blank’s?”
“Don’t ask me,” the manager shrugged.
Not far from Windsor’s main street is a collection of oneand two-floor frame houses that shelter many of the city’s colored population. In the centre of this section is an old rectangular, double-storied, cement-block building which was at one time a warehouse, then a pool-room, and is now a pool and Beverage Room combined; while still half a block away from it, the high wail of a saxophone greeted my ears. Going up three rickety steps to the door, the full melody of “Love Me Tonight” throbbed through the entrance. It looked lively—and was. The tiny dance square was full. The orchestra, colored except for a white woman pianist, was
girls, all apparently at the deadline age—twenty-one—sat over a dollar bottle of native wine, drinking as quickly as was decently possible. According to their loud conversation, they were going to drive out to a roadhouse to dance. playing vhe music with abandon. Busy white-coated waiters flashed tiTough the crowd.
While my beer was being brought, a pleasant young fellow came up to ask if I had a "card.” I gave him my name and in a moment he was back with a piece of ¡jasteboard.
“What’s the idea?”
"Well, you see,” he smiled, “we’re supposed to be a club.”
I looked at the card. I was the 2,036th member.
The room was about sixty by thirty-five feet, and seated a few more than 200. Every place was taken, mostly by couples who had come to spend the whole evening. Beer, served from a long open bar, was a dime per glass, and there were no extras of any kind. No food was in evidence. A third were neighborhood colored folk, many with their own dusky beauties; but none of these danced. Many of the whites were Windsor socialites—for this was the show place, the most amusing in town. Paid entertainers sang between dances or told risqué stories. A quarreV developed at a near-by table where two mixed couples sat over their beer; one of the men rose to his feet, talking loudly. Quickly the shirt-sleeved proprietor pushed through the crowd to calm him with a few pleasant words and a friendly slap on the back. When I left, twenty people including one party of six in evening dress, were lined up at the door. Outside, twentyfive cars filled the little street.
At half-past twelve Sunday morning a motley group of merrymaking men and women were disgorged from an Oulette Avenue “club.” They had a lot of fun finding their motor cars and deciding who was to drive. Mostly married couples around forty, the wives took part in the noisy talk with varying degrees of enthusiasm.
“You drive, Fred,” one fellow said. “You can handle the car better than I can.”
I heard a woman say, as she contemptuously gave a man, apparently her husband, a push:
“Well, I know who’s going to drive our car. You can’t walk, let alone drive.”
The following day I talked to an official of the ferry company, on whose boats so many pass over to Detroit.
“Any difference in travel since the Beverage Rooms came in?”
“No,” he said. “Not as far as we are concerned. But getting beer back in the States has cut down the number of Americans who cross the line. Lots of our fellows work over there, and lots cross for the beer.” He ¡jointed out that nearly any part of Windsor was closer to downtown Detroit than residential areas of the American city itself. “Suppose a fellow has a dollar to spend. In Windsor, that’s ten glasses of beer. Well, return fare to Detroit is a dime. Ten glasses of American beer, twice the size, is fifty cents; a movie’s a quarter, and he’s got fifteen cents left for a sandwich. And it’s darn good beer, too.”
Sufficient to say for Detroit that the old-time bar is back stronger than it ever was. Hundreds of stores sell bottled wet goods. Closing hour is two in the morning, and Sunday is the big day for drinking. Comparatively, Ontario is a place of restraint. With 2,200 licenses, Detroit has more than twice the number of drinking places that the whole Province of Ontario has.
In London some rooms had gone to considerable expense to give an “English” atmosphere to their taverns. Other places were in course of construction and alteration—some of which had never been hotels. Stratford had spent no money, as far as I could see, but just settled down in the old places to make money. One hotelkeeper said:
“Why should we cut into our profits with a radio, ferns or fancy pictures? We’re here to sell beer.”
A leading doctor told me:
“This legislation is all wrong; a decided step backward. The way we had it before was bad enough, but if a man wanted a drink he could get it. Pushed right in front of them, a lot of people will start drinking who never thought of it before.
In a hotel near the station an acquaintance, a working man, boosted the change:
“There’s some sense to this. A man can get a glass of beer whenever he wants it and keep it out of his home.”
In this railroad centre I could not find that the train, shop or travelling service had been affected one way or the other.
In Kitchener, a law enforcement officer said to me:
“What d’ye mean, how are the new Beverage Rooms getting along? We’ve always had ‘Beverage Rooms;’ all through the war, the O.T.A. and liquor control. We never had any trouble then and we don’t have any now. Kitchener people know how to drink.”
Later, around the province, talking with dozens of commercial travellers, this was confirmed :
“Oh, sure; you could always step up to the bar in Kitchener and buy a drink.”
But in the smart little city with its bustling main street, I saw no bars. Plenty of Beverage Rooms, new and expensively rigged out, filled with men, women, boys and girls— the latter, of course, at least twenty-one years of age or slightly over. There was no disorder. Since leaving the border I had seen nothing but quiet, steady drinking.
Going north from Guelph, the next few days were spent in the big “dry” areas of Grey and Bruce counties. “Dry” means that there is no free legal sale of liquor; not that there is none to be had. Everywhere, I was informed, it was available; but I only tested it in Owen Sound. There, as elsewhere, the medium was that genie of modem information, the taxi-driver. Beer was ten cents a pint more than in the far-away Beverage Rooms.
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Beer Over Ontario
Continued from page 9—Starts on page 8
"Though it is dry,” it was explained, "anyone can send for liquor on a permit, and if they are wise at all, they can sell it without much danger of being pulled up. Many a family’s kept themselves through the depression by doing a little bootleggin’ on the side. All the fellows (the taxi-drivers) got their own list of good places.”
A chief of police carried on the explanation.
“You can’t stop people drinking; that’s all there is to that. We knock off a joint now and then, but so many are in it now that it’s hard to get proof. Beverage Rooms would kill the beer joints, but they’d sell the hard stuff just the same. The best all-round system is Government shops every place— and let the people decide for themselves.” But what seemed to concern the merchants of dry areas mostly was the possibility of trade drifting to the nearest wet centres. Especially the Georgian Bay tourist trade. Meaford and Collingwood told the same story—plenty of liquor originally bought in Wiarton or Barrie Government stores, for sale privately at slightly higher prices. In Orillia, a regular taxi service for liquor only, supplies the town from Barrie.
An odd fact seemed to obtrude itself after getting a cross section of opinion from both dry and wet areas. So many people in each district complained that it looked as though those who had Beverage Rooms didn’t want them ; while those who were without, thought they might be a good thing.
The Sturdy North
"DROM just above Washago you take off into the real North—the wilderness of beauty; of rock, lakes, forest, muskeg and swamp; cities and towns made by minerals —nickel, silver, gold; and the twin cities at the head of the lakes built on shipping and wheat. *
Their beer experiences are alike. Men without women drink a little during the day, much at night and heavily on Saturday. The country is full of strong, hard-working Canadians and Northern Europeans; beer parlors provide rare amusement. Proprietors do their best to keep order, but rows are far more frequent than in the less virile Southern sections of the province. In Sudbury, Fort William or Port Arthur, I, personally, didn’t see any rows; but a dozen or more tales which rang true were related to me. Through the new mining areas around Long Lac and Jellicoe, though they would drink it if they could get it, they’re thinking of gold, food and shelter—not beer.
Across the river from Fort Frances sits the slightly larger Minnesota town of International Falls, out-competing Canada at every point. The five little Beverage Rooms of Fort Frances make a poor show beside the fifty-five bars of the American town. There, a dance hall sells five tickets for a quarter, each good for one beer plus one dance. A filling station sells both gasoline and beer; and another, though I did not see this one, is said to give away two steins of beer as a premium with each five gallons of gas. Thus beer and gasoline do mix, after all. But nowhere in Ontario do any conditions even remotely approaching these exist.
Hearst, on the one-time transcontinental main line, gave a typical picture of Beverage Rooms in the smaller places of the North. Cheapest of construction, flimsy varnished tables, kitchen chairs and one lone waiter. On the walls, the signs of brewers and notices warn customers against loud talking, profanity, singing and intoxication. Buried behind thick curtains or high windows, patrons may do only one tiling—drink beer. Except for evenings and Saturdays, the rooms are three-quarters empty.
Kapuskasing, cleanest of Northern Ontario towns, has returned to its normal production of newsprint after the first few hectic days of beer. Cochrane’s revelry has settled into regular business. Only in the lively gold centres—Timmins, Schumacher and South Porcupine—is there an uncontrollable Saturday night. In Kirkland Lake, the popular girl barber will tell you that scarcely any of the gentlemen who come under her razor, smell of beer.
In these towns there is no depression. Houses are still being built at night by lamplight. At the ends of the shifts, men pour out of the mines into the Beverage Rooms and sit there, apparently relaxed and satisfied, over their beer—talking in terms of ore, crushers, dynamite and drills. As I looked at the day’s production from one of the largest mines—a double brick of yellow metal worth $25,000—1 could not help but think of those other gold mines I had seen all through the province, the beer parlors, where the minted metal itself flows through the hands of their proprietors in an unending stream.
I made my way, through North Bay and Pembroke, into Ottawa—with decidedly new impressions of the whole North. In the papers, I had been reading of their "orgies” and, though looking for them, had found none. Not a thing did I see but deadly dullness, a few quarrels, and in ten days about a hundred ordinary drunks. Not a woman was present in any Beverage Room.
As if to make up for it, I walked into the first saloon in Ottawa just in time to hear one young drunk inviting another young drunk to step outside to settle something or other “like a man.” I went with them, but only one blow was struck before the dispute was settled by arbitration. The proprietor welcomed both back to his hospitality; urging them, now that honor was satisfied, to sit down and drink "like men.”
Kingston’s only departure from the more or less dull drinking of the rest of the province was in its simplified table system— an enlarged chair arm serving as a rest for the beer glass. Preparation for a football game was its excuse for every Beverage Room being crowded an hour before noon.
A poor woman on relief added her point of view to my swelling list of notes.
“It’s mean the way they treat us. My husband gets the chance of a drink from some of his chums, but if he’s seen in a hotel it would go against him with the relief officer. Who’s more entitled to a drink than a man that’s been out of work two years— that’s what I’d like to know?”
I arrived in Hamilton on a market day and there, as in North Bay, Chatham and Peterborough, I saw women, many with small children, waiting near Beverage Rooms while their farmer husbands crowded the taverns.
Around Market Square the hotels were doing a land-office business. There was noise, confusion and drunkenness before evening, but no disturbance worthy of police attention. Within a half-mile radius of the City Hall I counted fifteen men obviously the worse for liquor, but all could navigate. Having been told that under the shadow of the mountain bootlegging still flourished, I visited an alcohol dive and saw for myself that there was at least one such place. Half a dozen taxi-drivers offered to take me to others.
'T'HE EXPERIENCE, enlarged many times, could be repeated in Toronto. The bootlegging aspect has no special bearing on the beer problem, being a product of large cities, wet or dry. Any night in Toronto scores of citizens who are the worse for drink can now be found ; and every night there is a certain market for after-midnight liquor. Two features of Toronto which I noticed were the extreme number of “mushroom” hotels and the “forced sale” system of serving beer. By the latter system one group of waiters remove customers’ glasses the second they are empty; while another group pass up and down the room with trays of full glasses, setting beer, unasked for, in front of all patrons who have just had their glasses removed.
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Beer Over Ontario
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In the slums of Toronto I visited a hotel that was famous half a century ago. When Prohibition descended on it in 1916 it was doing a roaring business as a comer saloon. Saturday night a few weeks ago, it was back in business—and as a comer saloon. The same old sagging front with its awry sign; the old wooden floor that sloped in three or four directions. The bar had been cut down to half its former length, and around its outer edge a three-foot, wide-meshed wire screen had been erected. In behind, Mr. Blank, in true pre-war style, dispensed foaming mugs of draft beer to his three white-coated waiters through a small opening in the screen. Tables filled the space once occupied by part of the bar, and around them were the same old types—plus beardless boys who would not have been tolerated years ago, plus women young and old. I said to the ancient, beery waiter:
“Like old times, eh?”
“Yes, sir-ree-sir,” he replied. “The old days are back again.”
Nothing of the “old days,” however, was apparent when I visited the half dozen fashionable places where young Toronto drinks. I will take you with me to only one —at half-past eleven Saturday night. If you glance to the left as you enter, you will see, in a recess off the lobby, a boy and a girl half lying on a sofa, locked in each other’s arms. Around them, smartly gowned girls are waiting while their young bloods hilariously struggle into their overcoats before driving away. Without being intoxicated, many have had, considering today’s transportation difficulties, an unsafe amount to drink. But on the way to the Beverage Room I passed ten men and two girls who were drunk—all variously supporting each other or being supported by the wall of the corridor.
The Beverage Room itself is blue with smoke, raucous with loud conversation, happy with immoderate laughter. With difficulty I find a seat. From the centre of the room it is impossible, on account of the haze, to see into the corners, but a full half of the crowd around me are girls well under twenty-three. Most have had enough beer to make them lively and careless. A middleaged, expensively dressed woman at the next table has her legs thrown over an unoccupied chair—“keeping it warm for Ted,” she says.
Her daughter, a dark, pretty girl of about twenty, puts down her glass, laughs throatily. A few youths are leaving, hats at all angles on their heads, trailing their overcoats after them along the floor. Sharp at midnight the door of the bar closed with a bang—satisfied at having sold 10,000 glasses of beer.
I watched them walk, stagger, be helped out. In the building, in the last thirty minutes of the week, I had counted seventy drunks.
And a Lot Don’t Drink
BUT TO keep a perspective it is well to remember that, with every one of Toronto’s beer parlors blazing with business, there are still approximately three quarters of a million citizens retiring, beerless, for Saturday night’s good sleep.
I had visited nearly 300 Beverage Rooms and divided them roughly into four classes. Big, swanky city places as attractive as money could make them, about five per cent of the total; regular hotels where a genuine effort had been made to provide a decent drinking place, twenty per cent; old hotels where a lick of soil-resisting paint and a dab of varnish failed to conceal the fact that they were nothing but money-making dives, fifty per cent; and lastly and worst of all, the cheap joints thrown together for the sole purpose of selling beer but calling themselves hotels, twenty-five per cent.
According to my view after what I had seen, some definite evils stood out.
“Saturday nights” have been revived. Of almost forgotten memory—for the old bar closed Saturday evenings at seven—the end of the week has become fête day for beer. Over Ontario the first hour of Sunday sees discharged upon the streets a heterogeneous collection of individuals, male and female, in all stages of intoxication from the mildly exhilarated and tuneful, through to the decidedly drunk. Nothing like as bad as it might be, nothing, perhaps, immoral; but a startling reminder of a day most citizens thought had gone for ever.
Also, I could not but think that, however disguised or whatever called, the same old bar had returned. No spirits are sold and all must sit in more or less gentlemanly fashion at a table, but offsetting this is the fact that younger men and all women are encouraged to drink beer, plenty of beer. What ruined the old bar was not straight intemperance as much as the direct, continual and deliberate encouragement of intemperance for the sake of hotelkeepers’ and brewery profits. From my observations during the past two months I should say that this system is again in force, and without the slightest change—except that now both Provincial and Dominion Governments share in the revenue of the liquor traffic.
Throughout the Province market days have again become fearsome, discouraging experiences for the wives of many farmers. The load of produce, wrung from the soil by the hardest of labor and sold for pitiful prices, must again yield its percentage to the comer saloon. I saw it in half a dozen places—the women waiting for their men, not, as in the old days, behind a horse, but in a motor car with the power of fifty or a hundred horses. I came out of a Beverage Room with a well-lubricated farmer in Hamilton and said “good-by” to him at his car.
“Are you all right to drive, George?” his wife asked; and George replied:
“I can drive through the eye of a needle.”
Farmer George is only one man of hundreds who ought not to get behind the wheel of a car after spending an hour or so in a Beverage Room. Over the province there has been a general protest at the increased hazard of the roads. From press figures for August, 1934, Windsor had six more killed, Hamilton had seven more, and Toronto had eight more killed than in the previous year. There were 112 more accidents on country roads than for the same month in 1933. A year ago in August and September, 371 persons were injured in the streets of Toronto. This year for the same period, and with no increase in cars, 553 were struck down. Four times as many were killed.
It has not been proved that beer is responsible for these increases; but this year there are Beverage Rooms, last year there were none.
I saw some police court cases in the larger centres. In all, the majority of the accused were charged with drunkenness. Police chiefs through the province admitted that it had generally increased—though many said the increase was slight. Only in Toronto would they let me look at the record. For August and September, 1934, 700 drunks were convicted against 516 in 1933. Of the ones I saw, a few were neatly dressed young fellows, a dozen were women and girls; but the majority were the men beer was brought back to befriend—workers, poorly dressed people and unemployed.
“Well, what do you expect?” one of the clerks said. "Toronto’s Beverage Rooms seat nearly twenty thousand people. There’s bound to be a few more drunks.” ACROSS THE PROVINCE I had been asking hundreds of citizens: "What do you think of the Beverage Rooms? How are they working out in your town? Have they affected your business in any way?”
From my notes, sixty merchants said that they had noticed no difference in any way and fifty druggists agreed with them; but both classes qualified their remarks with “as yet,” explaining that they understood that the extra money spent for beer must eventually lower either savings or amounts spent for merchandise. Factories and mines reported that there was but little difference except that now they had to take some extra precautions to see that workers who had been drinking were not allowed to go on duty.
But three-quarters of the men with whom I talked, including town officials and leading citizens, protested in one form or another: “What did they change the system for? It was all right the old way, when, if a man wanted a drink, he could go to the liquor store, buy it and drink it at home—off the streets.”
The general tendency of young people seemed to be to accept what was put before them. They favored the Beverage Room; it hadn’t worried them before, it didn’t worry them now. Most of the older women condemned them, lock, stock and barrel. The younger matrons and girls generally did not approve, but were quick to say they had as much right as men to drink “if they wanted to.”
This “problem” of women and girls drinking in Beverage Rooms has, so far, been confined to the cities. In towns and villages I did not see any; custom, apparently, keeping them out. Most men, but few women, agreed that Manitoba was right in forbidding, by law, the entrance of women to beer parlors.
The ordinary fathers and mothers of all ranks of society, whether they approved or disapproved of the new system for themselves, objected from the standpoint of their children. One well-known wholesaler in London can speak for all. He told me:
“I like a glass of beer and we’ve got a fine place just across the road, but I don’t want any boy or girl of mine going in these socalled Beverage Rooms.”
Older men unhesitatingly said:
“This is worse than the old bar ever was.” Fifty or more hotelmen I talked with, said: “The bar system was better than this because a man could have his drink and leave. Now they sit around all day.”
Many Canadian-born citizens expressed the opinion that sitting down in a Beverage Room should be “forbidden.”
I emphasize Canadian-born because nearly a quarter of Ontario’s people were bom abroad. With their experience of regular, and what we would call temperate, drinking in Europe, this section of the population generally favors free access to liquor. But Canadians, who drink for effect, are several generations removed from their drinking relatives of the Old World who use alcohol, unashamedly, for pleasure.
What startled me, in this survey of the whole province, was the strength of the feeling against the Beverage Rooms as they are now constituted. Outside of the beer parlors, I did not hear more than a dozen favorable comments on the change, while literally hundreds of protests reached me. “Going backward.” — “What did they change the system for?”
To help me account for my findings, on my return I got out my Canada Year Book. There I discovered that the Province of Ontario has about two million adults— people over twenty-one years of age. Then I looked at the last report of the Liquor Control Board and saw that only fifteen per cent of Ontario’s adults had taken ou* liquor permits—of all kinds. Almost an even 300,000. At once I had part of the answer.
Eighty-five per cent of the people—with beer, wine and whisky at their elbows in Government Stores—never bought a drop. In a sense it confused the whole issue. If that was the case—that eighty-five percent of the citizens were not sufficiently interested in liquor to buy it—why did we suddenly have hundreds of Beverage Rooms crop up all over the province? That was the question so many people had asked me over che last few weeks.
Frankly, I did not know. So 1 asked the two men in Ontario who should know—the IYemier of Ontario and Mr. Edmund George Odette, the Liquor Commissioner.
They told me.
And in the next issue I shall tell you.
To be Continued