For Licensees

What is Best Bar None?

Best Bar None Ontario is an industry-led international accreditation and awards program that rewards excellence amongst responsible liquor sales licensees and encourages everyone to improve their operations. Best Bar None Ontario is a program that is offered for licensees in Toronto downtown core, ByWard Market in Ottawa and throughout the City of Windsor.

Who can apply for Best Bar None accreditation?

For accreditation, applications will be accepted from Toronto’s downtown core with the following boundaries (on both sides of the streets):

  • West – Parkside Drive
  • East – Yonge Street
  • North – Bloor Street
  • South – Lake Ontario

(Note: establishments on the Toronto islands are included, as well as licensed boats that dock in this area.)

For accreditation, applications from Ottawa’s ByWard Market include the following boundaries (on both sides of the streets):

  • West – Sussex Drive
  • East – Cumberland Street
  • North – St. Patrick Street
  • South – Rideau Street

For accreditation, applications will be accepted throughout the City of Windsor.

Why should I apply for Best Bar None Ontario accreditation?

This is your opportunity to demonstrate to your customers, your neighbours and members of the public that your venue have the highest standards of service and have implemented industry best practices so that your business stands above the crowd as a safe, well-run licensed establishment. Best Bar None Ontario was offered for the first time in Ontario in 2012/2013 and is now is offering accreditation for licensees in the downtown Toronto core, Ottawa ByWard Market and to the City of Windsor.

How will Best Bar None Ontario be good for my business?

The Best Bar None brand is being widely promoted to the general public by Best Bar None Ontario. The 2nd phase will include three media launches in Toronto, Ottawa and Windsor, ongoing advertising through our industry partners, a media release announcing all the accredited businesses, and awards ceremonies in each of the areas, to celebrate the category winners. Best Bar None Ontario will also run a promotion campaign directed towards potential customers who care about safe and responsibly operated businesses – the best patrons – to encourage them to visit Best Bar None Ontario establishments. If successfully accredited, you will also be able to use the Best Bar None Ontario logo , on your marketing materials, take out menus and sandwich boards and other communication vehicles to attract new customers, at no cost to you!

With your participation, Best Bar None will help reinforce these areas as premier dining and entertainment destinations and create more welcoming, attractive and vibrant night time economies.

Does it cost anything to apply for accreditation?

There are no fees or payments of any kind associated with submitting an application, receiving Best Bar None Ontario accreditation or winning an award. Best Bar None Ontario aims to reward excellence and raise the standards in the hospitality industry, so participation is strongly encouraged.

What is the process for getting Best Bar None Ontario accreditation?

First complete the application form, which sets out the criteria to determine whether your premises meet the standards for accreditation.

The questions cover operations, service and customer safety criteria that your business should be aware of and address. There is also an Application Guide to help you answer the questions and the Applicant Help Line that you can call (1.855.BBN (226).9500), or e-mail your questions to bbn@orhma.com.

There are three types of questions on the application form: Essential, Desirable and Bonus. The Essential questions are the baseline questions that must be answered appropriately in order for your business to be eligible for Best Bar None Ontario accreditation. You do not need to answer any of the Desirable or Bonus questions to become accredited.

If you do answer the Desirable and Bonus questions, you can gain valuable points used to determine the annual winner of each of the six awards categories: Best Club, Best Restaurant, Best Bar/Lounge, Best Hotel Lounge, Best Pub, Best Venue and Best Members’ Club (a private type establishment that has members such as a golf club, marina or tennis club, etc.).

After you submit your application form, Best Bar None Ontario assessors will contact you to schedule a visit to your business and review your application. This is not a liquor inspection of your establishment (assessors are independent, third party individuals retained by Best Bar None Ontario), but is simply an opportunity to ensure that all of the information needed to fully and fairly assess your application has been received.

Do I have to become accredited every year?

Yes. Because circumstances can change for any licensed establishment (a change in the type of business, liquor licence infractions, etc.), accreditation is done on an annual basis. This gives more businesses the opportunity to participate regardless of their circumstances in the previous year, and to institute best practices that benefit them and the industry as a whole.

What are the Best Bar None Ontario Awards?

The seven business categories are: Best Club, Best Bar/Lounge, Best Restaurant, Best Hotel Lounge, Best Pub, Best Venue and Best Members’ Club. The winners will be those establishments in each category with the highest total of Desirable and Bonus points and will be presented at the awards in spring in each year.

At the same time, all of the successfully accredited establishments will be presented to the media in their respective cities and promoted as the licensed businesses which are “Best Bar None”. Once you become accredited, the Best Bar None Ontario logo can be used in your ongoing marketing efforts to draw new patrons to your establishment.

If an establishment has had any liquor sales licence infractions, can it still apply for accreditation?

You are required to have a clean compliance record for the previous 12 months with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) from the day you have submitted your application. That means you cannot have received any orders of monetary penalty, served a suspension, agreed to serve a suspension or have any outstanding Notices of Proposal by AGCO within the past 12 months from the day you submit your application. If you have had disciplinary action within this time, you can still receive an educational visit by assessors to support you becoming part of the program at a later date.

Will Best Bar None Ontario accreditation have any impact on how liquor sales licence applications are processed or how compliance inspections are conducted by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO)?

The Best Bar None Ontario program is completely voluntary and industry-led by the Ontario Restaurant Hotel Motel Association (ORHMA). It recognizes excellence in operational standards and service and is completely separate from the AGCO’s licensing and inspection processes. The AGCO’s involvement is solely to assist licensed premises in raising their responsible alcohol service standards and maintaining a safe, enjoyable environment. Best Bar None also complements the AGCO’s shift towards compliance-focused regulation.

Does an establishment have to be a member of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel Motel Association (ORHMA) to apply for Best Bar None Ontario accreditation?

Membership in ORHMA is not required to apply for or receive accreditation. ORHMA is leading the Best Bar None Ontario program on behalf of the industry and its participation is aimed at encouraging establishments to raise their standards respecting the sale and service of alcohol and to improve the hospitality industry as a whole.

Why have a pilot rather than launch Best Bar None across Ontario immediately?

The initial Best Bar None Ontario initiative requires a tremendous amount of initial testing and review including program criteria, assessment, marketing, budget, and evaluation. It was felt that a pilot was the most appropriate means to test the effectiveness of the program before considering city or even province-wide implementation. After evaluation of the 3 year pilot(s), if successful, it is the intent to continue to implement in other areas as well.

My business is located outside of the Best Bar None Ontario pilot area. Will I get the opportunity to be included in Best Bar None?

The Best Bar None Ontario pilot will be evaluated to determine areas for change and improvement. If successful, it is likely that the program will be expanded to other areas within Toronto and/or across the province. Any licensee across the province can access the Best Bar None Ontario guidelines and criteria to self-assess their operating policies and procedures and their establishment. The materials are meant to be informative and include many best practices that can benefit any licensed business.

For Patrons

Why should I be a customer at a business with a Best Bar None Ontario designation?

Businesses with Best Bar None Ontario designations have demonstrated that they maintain the highest standards of alcohol sale and service and have implemented industry best practices for safety. You can be assured that these businesses stand above the crowd as safe and well-run.

How do I know if a business has a Best Bar None Ontario accreditation?

Any accredited liquor licensed businesses will have a Best Bar None Ontario decal in their window and/or in a prominent place in the establishment. You may also see the Best Bar None Ontario logo on its website, take out menus, advertisements and other printed materials.