Density of on- and off-premises alcohol outlets: Local regulation of availability of alcohol

Learn about how local governments limit the number of outlets where alcohol is sold

Inside this alcohol policy pack

Density of alcohol outlets

Regulate commercial and public availability of alcohola,1,2,3,4

Limit density of on- and off-premises alcohol outletsb,1,3,4

Degree of adoption in 31 Canadian municipalities

Current actions in Canada
A few examples exist at the municipal level in Canada where municipalities have limited density of alcohol outlets using zoning and, or land use bylaws:

  • Surrey’s Locational Guideline requires that private liquor stores be located 400 m from children’s facilities (For example, schools, parks and playgrounds) as well as public libraries and recreation centres. It also requires private liquor stores not be located within 1 km of another private liquor store.
  • Edmonton’s Zoning Bylaw requires a minimum separation distance of 500 m between alcohol outlets. In addition, bylaw prohibits alcohol outlets less than 100 m from any site being used for community or recreation activities (For example, community league buildings and facilities, and children’s playgrounds and play areas), public or private education or public lands.
  • Fredericton’s Zoning Bylaw does not permit alcohol outlets within 300 m of a place of worship, school or in a building also used for residential purposes, with some exceptions.
  • Calgary’s Land Use Bylaw does not permit liquor stores within 300 m of any other liquor stores, nor can they be located within 150 m of a school.
  • Vancouver’s Liquor Store Guidelines indicate that no liquor store should be located within 150 m of a church, park, elementary or secondary school, community centre or neighbourhood house.

In addition, Vancouver and Victoria use Business License Bylaws to require alcohol retailers to conduct public consultation on impact and assess density in their applications.

Local policy poolsc,d

  • Land use and zoning bylaws
  • Business license bylaws
  • Fees bylaws

Examples of local actionc,d
Municipalities can strengthen zoning, land use or other by-laws to prohibit businesses that sell alcohol in a certain area.

Municipalities can also strengthen these bylaws to set limits on the number of licensed establishments allowed in a certain geographic area.

Municipalities can use licensing to require health impact assessments for every alcohol license application. Municipalities can evaluate these and contest those that could adversely impact a neighbourhood.

Municipalities can discourage introduction or expansion of U-Brew and U-Vin industries. Where they exist, licensing can be made contingent upon matching socially referenced prices for beverage alcohol in that jurisdiction.

1- World Cancer Research Fund International (2009). Policy and Action for Cancer Prevention. Retrieved from:
2- World Health Organization (2013). Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases. Retrieved from:
3- Cancer Care Ontario (2016). Prevention System Quality Index. Retrieved from:
4- Public Health Ontario/Cancer Care Ontario (2012). Taking Action to Prevent Chronic Disease. Retrieved from:
a- Community Preventive Services Task Force (2009) Systematic Review: Alcohol – Excessive Consumption: Maintaining Limits on Hours of Sale
b-Community Preventive Services Task Force (2007) Systematic Review: Alcohol – Excessive Consumption: Regulation of Alcohol Outlet Density
c- Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (2013). Making the case for supporting local alcohol policy in Ontario
d- University of Victoria (2010). Helping Municipal Governments Reduce Alcohol-related Harms