2014’s New Year Day ushered in new liquor laws allowing strippers in Saskatchewan bars. Did you know that 60 years ago you could end up in jail for having a beer in a bar if you were not sitting down in a chair? What was Saskatchewan liquor law like 100 years ago?
Saskatchewan was the first province in Canada to ban private sector sale of alcohol. The sale of liquor were banned in April 1915 and all bars and club licenses were abolished the following July. In 1924 Saskatchewan voted to end prohibition and adopted a system of government controlled liquor stores. There remained no bars, no beer parlours, no licensed clubs, and no canteens selling liquors in Saskatchewan. Under government control, the quantities of alcohol an individual could purchase each day were 2 gallons of beer, 1 gallon of wine, and 1 quart of whisky. Bootlegging in Saskatchewan increased 111% in the first year after prohibition was lifted and sale of hard liquor under government control increased by 33% in two years from 1925 to 1927. In January 1927, an article in Spokane’s Spokesman Review reported that Saskatchewan might be called “the province where liquor is easy to buy and hard to drink”.
“There is no difficulty about the individual getting all the beer, wine and spirits that anyone could drink. But he must not drink it in his office, or at his club, or in his restaurant, or standing up alongside a hotel bar or sitting down to it in a beer parlor or in any other public place unless it be at a banquet.”
The sale of liquor by the glass became legal in 1935. After much debate, it was decided that women should be allowed to drink in beer parlours too – but not in the same beer parlours as men. There were separated beer parlours for men and women and there must be no communicating door between the two. The only man allowed to enter the women’s beer parlour would be the waiter or bartender, for the law prohibited women to serve beer. A man and wife might wish to enjoy a beer together but under the law they would have to do so in separate parlours. If either one finished the drink first, it would be illegal for him or her to go next door to look for the spouse. In beer parlours, sale of food, meals or any other kind of drinks were not allowed. In September 1952, a Saskatoon man was fined $100, with an alternative sentence of 45 days in jail, for drinking in a beer parlour standing up. From Acting-Magistrate J.M. Goldenberg’s judgment:
“I am faced with the possibility that I will send this man to jail for 45 days for what cannot be described otherwise than a very petty offence. That strikes me as a punishment that is much more severe than the offence calls for.” (Ottawa Citizen, September 26, 1952)
It wasn’t till 1959 that women were allowed to drink in the same beverage outlets as men and in 1965, women were allowed to serve in beer parlours provided that they were hotel owners or wives of hotel owners.
Leader-Post, July 31, 1958 “Liquor Report has 37 varied recommendations”
Leader-Post, May 20, 1953 “Ladies’ beer parlors discussed by hotelmen”
Ottawa Citizen, Nov. 25, 1959 “Domain Gone”
The Spokesman-Review, January 28, 1927 “Easy to Buy, Hard to Drink, Said of Saskatchewan Control“
Ottawa Citizen, October 18, 1928 – The Fifth Column “Just What is Being ‘Controlled’ By Liquor Control in Canada”
The Montreal Gazette, Jan. 25, 1935 “Saskatchewan’s Beer parlors”
The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan “Prohibition and Temperance”
Ottawa Citizen, March 2, 1946 “Want milk bars, not beer parlors”