Court Cases & Orders

What’s a Pub Without a Liquor License?

pub liquor license
Written by Russell Alexander / (905) 655-6335

What’s a Pub Without a Liquor License?

In a recent Ontario case called Service v. Service, the court had to (literally) force the hand of the husband whose stubborn refusal to sign documents was jeopardizing the wife’s ability to operate the pub she got as part of the divorce settlement.

The couple had been married more than 30 years and had two children when they decided to divorce. In the course of equalizing their property, they agreed that the husband would transfer to the wife 100% of his interest in a pub that he ran, and this was formalized by way of a court order.

However, it turned out that the pub’s liquor license was shortly up for renewal with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). There were two options: Either the license could be left with the husband for renewal (with the wife’s co-operation) or – given that it had to be in the wife’s name as a new owner – the husband could transfer the license to the wife. Otherwise, the wife would be forced to apply for a brand new license, and that would likely mean she would have to shut the pub down for 8 to 14 weeks while the AGCO processed the paperwork.

The parties agreed that the husband would sign a transfer. But when the wife sent him the license transfer form, he refused to complete it. By now the renewal deadline was looming, so the wife had to go to court to get an order forcing the husband to sign the document.

Not surprisingly, the wife was successful.

The husband – who one can only surmise was trying to frustrate the wife’s ability to run the pub – raised various technical arguments under the Liquor License Act and its regulations, relating to whether he was still a “license holder” in light of the court order granting the wife the husband’s 100% share. In the end, however, the court forced the husband to sign the transfer on-the-spot, before he even left the courthouse, adding:

The quality of Mrs. Service’s operation of the Pub and the degree to which Mr. Service may or may not have been getting in the way of that operation are to be determined on another day.

In awarding the wife $5,000 in legal costs, the court considered: 1) her last-ditch request – just prior to the motion – that the husband sign; 2) his ongoing refusal to do so despite the consent order that had been based on a negotiated agreement between them; and 3) the fact that the wife’s motion had to be brought on an emergency basis due to the husband’s lack of co-operation.

For the full text of the decision:

Service v. Service, 2013 ONSC 2002

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at

Stay in Touch

Keep learning about the latest issues in Ontario family law! Subscribe to our newsletter, have our latest articles delivered to your inbox, or listen to our Podcast Family Law Now.

Be sure to find out more about the "new normal", by visiting our Covid-19 and Divorce Information Centre.

About the author

Russell Alexander

Russell Alexander is the Founder & Senior Partner of Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers.