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A Framework for Developing Municipal Alcohol Policies


I Introduction
II Framework for Developing Municipal Alcohol Policies: Eight Steps
III Conclusion
IV Resources
V References

Submitted by Gobinaa Manoharan, Practicum Student, Health Promotion Capacity Building, Public Health Ontario

I Introduction

Alcohol is a socially popular legal substance, but due to its harmful effects, alcohol consumption is a public health concern. In 2011, 17.8% of drinkers reported engaging in harmful drinking that increased current and future health harms. [1] Some of the negative acute events associated with alcohol consumption include injury, violence, crime, and motor vehicle crashes. [2] Alcohol policies, defined as “authoritative decisions made by governments, organizations, or individuals through laws, rules or regulations” are effective in reducing harm at the individual and population level.  [3] Alcohol policies are a type of healthy public policy, intended to create a supportive physical and social environment that provides the opportunity for people to lead healthy lives. [4]

What are Municipal Alcohol Policies (MAPs)?

A municipal alcohol policy (MAP) is a civic policy tool that aligns with provincial liquor laws and outlines the appropriate use of alcohol on local government owned or managed property; municipally owned places and spaces. [5] The purpose of a MAP is to manage the drinking environment and the goal is to encourage moderate, responsible consumption by changing social norms and the value placed on alcohol in a community. [6, 7] Developing local alcohol policies demonstrates a community’s commitment to safe environments while clearly outlining what is acceptable and not acceptable on municipally-owned properties such as at arenas, sport stadiums and fields, community centres, beaches and parks.

Why should public health professionals support the development of MAPs?

Attention to MAPs can be found throughout the Ontario Public Health Standards, particularly in three program standards; prevention of chronic disease; prevention of injury and substance misuse; and reproductive health. [8] Guidance documents produced by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care outlines how MAPs are seen as evidence-based and encourages public health staff to work with community stakeholders to increase awareness of MAPs, and to initiate the creation, adoption and implementation of a MAP across Ontario municipalities. [9]  In addition to provincial standards and documents, MAP development is supported nationally. For example, the Framework for a Canadian National Alcohol Strategy outlines 41 recommendations with the intent to strengthen alcohol controls, including the adoption of MAPs across the country, with impact at provincial and local levels. [2] The purpose of this article is to outline a framework for developing MAPs.

II Framework for Developing Municipal Alcohol Policies: Eight Steps

The Health Promotion Capacity Building team at Public Health Ontario has developed a framework for developing municipal alcohol policies. This framework includes an eight-step process. Although it is presented as a linear process, depending on your situation, you can start at any point in the process, or go back one or more steps if additional work is required. You may also cycle through the steps more than once. It is also important to note that allocation of effort is not equal across the different steps, but is based on your specific situation. The steps, instructions for implementing the steps and a case example related to developing a MAP are outlined below. The scenario for the case study is about how there is increased pressure to sell alcohol at recreation centres by some user groups, and City Council is considering including this type of service. The application section below outlines how each of the eight steps could be operationalized by public health professionals or community stakeholders interested in developing a MAP.

How to develop a Municipal Alcohol Policy (MAP) [10]



Application: Developing a MAP for a municipal recreation centre

Step 1: Identify, Describe and Analyze the Problem

This step builds the foundation for all other steps. Identify what is the problem? Who is most affected by the problem? Describe what is the cause of the problem? What factors in the community affect the problem such as attitudes, values, beliefs, perceptions, economic, or political factors?

Analyze what has been tried to resolve the problem and by whom? Analyze the cost of the problem.

The overall aim of this step is to have a collective understanding of the problem that needs to be addressed and gather enough information to assess if the problem can be addressed by developing a MAP.

Gather information to identify the population most affected (both positively and negatively) by the availability of alcohol at recreation centres and arenas.

Analyze the cost of selling and monitoring alcohol use in these facilities.

Once the information is gathered, establish a MAP committee and include a range of stakeholders (e.g., municipal decision-makers, user groups, community members, and public health), identify the goals and objectives of the MAP and mobilize community support by engaging the public to understand the issue.

Step 2: Examine MAPs

This step will inform you of the components of a MAP. Before developing a MAP, conduct an internet search to learn about the MAPs that exist, and search the literature to see how other MAPs address the problem; and review the MAPs in your own municipality and in neighbouring communities.

Review other MAPs from neighbouring municipalities or other municipalities from Ontario. Focus on the sale and consumption of alcohol in recreation centres. Examine MAPs to identify the six key MAP components:

  1. Designation of properties, facilities and events
  2. Management practices
  3. Prevention strategies
  4. Enforcement procedures and penalties
  5. Signs
  6. Ongoing policy support.

Use this information to inform your MAP.

Step 3: Assess Readiness for MAP Development

This step helps guide, educate and inform community stakeholders of the benefits of MAPs.

One way to assess community readiness is to create a force field analysis; consider what forces or factors are driving or hindering MAP development. Examining municipal council and committee minutes and reports, local news coverage and community surveys can help inform your force field analysis.

One step of the assessment plan is to conduct a survey of recreation centre participants/parents and the recreation staff to understand their readiness to support a MAP that will regulate alcohol use in recreation centres and arenas.

Step 4: Identify and Understand Municipal Decision-makers and Influencers

This step will help you build support for the MAP.

Use the information gathered in step three to identify organizations and individuals that could help you understand your municipal decision-makers, both elected officials and civil servants. Use this information to generate a list of influencers that could help move your MAP development process forward.

Search municipal council minutes and the municipal website to determine what department, and what position within the department, has responsibilities related to implementing a MAP.

Potential influencers include government, non-government and not-for-profit organizations, sports organizations, media outlets, parents, community volunteers, and residents.

Step 5: Build Support for the MAP

This step is about leveraging the support of municipal decision-makers and influencers. Reach out to community stakeholders to convey knowledge about the problem, present MAP development as a solution, and explore where there is alignment between their work/mandate and MAP development.

Strategies to build support may include writing a briefing note (a topic-specific short paper meant to quickly inform a decision-maker about an issue), on why a MAP is needed and how it can address the issue. Send a copy of the briefing note to the municipal decision-makers and influencers identified, inviting them to engage in a dialogue about the problem.

Step 6: Draft the MAP

This step may involve drafting a MAP. They must also meet some basic acceptability requirements (e.g., cannot contravene provincial liquor laws and must be feasible).

Conduct an inventory of the skills of your MAP committee to identify those that can help with the writing process.The MAP committee needs to decide which properties, facilities, and events should be eligible for alcohol service and where alcohol will not be allowed.

Draft and finalize the MAP.

Step 7: Facilitate Adoption and Implementation of the MAP

The purpose of this step is to encourage municipal council to enact the MAP.

Understand the procedural requirements for your municipality as specific steps for approval may vary between municipalities.Build a relationship with the municipal clerk, who is the secretary of the municipality and will have the skills to ensure that procedural processes are followed.

Once the MAP has been adopted, develop a communication plan to educate people about the MAP.

Develop a communication plan to educate municipal staff and user groups of recreation centres, including the arenas about the MAP, how to comply and consequences for non-compliance, and include strategic key messages to respond to opposition.

Step 8: Monitor and Evaluate the MAP

This step is about ensuring the MAP is being implemented as intended, and is having the intended impact on the problem that it was designed to address.

Develop an evaluation plan to monitor the implementation and enforcement of the MAP. This plan should include identifying ways to regularly monitor and annually evaluate the MAP with a mixture of process and outcome indicators.

Conduct a process evaluation related to the implementation process and include indicators such as the number of signs installed within recreation centres.


Conduct an outcome evaluation that examines the impact of the MAP, and include indicators such as property crime rates.


Communicate the findings to community stakeholders.


III Conclusion

MAPs have been proven to be an effective tool to reduce alcohol-related harm at community and individual levels. A framework for developing MAPs was outlined and a case example provided. Public health professionals and others interested in addressing issues related to alcohol harms should consider this eight-step process to increase the number of MAPs in Ontario.

The content for this article was adapted from At a Glance: The Eight Steps for Developing a Municipal Alcohol Policy (MAP). [10]

IV Resources

To learn more about municipal alcohol policies, visit The Eight Steps for Developing a Municipal Alcohol Policy.

Making the Case: Tools for Supporting Local Alcohol Policy in Ontario was produced by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and Pubic Health Ontario. It aims to foster awareness about, and underscore the need for local action on alcohol-related harms, and support the development and implementation of local alcohol policies within communities across Ontario.

The Municipal Alcohol Policy Guide a practical resource for successfully managing drinking in recreational settings from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

A Local Government Guide to Creating Municipal Alcohol Policy  from the BC Ministry of Health in collaboration with BC Healthy Communities serves as a guide for local governments/First Nations in the planning of a municipal alcohol policy (MAP). A MAP helps local governments/First Nations manage alcohol facilities they own and manage, and reduces liability for alcohol-related problems.

Framework for a Canadian National Alcohol Strategy is available at

V References

1. Lalomiteanu AR, Adlaf EM, Hamilton H, Mann RE. CAMH Monitor eReport: Addiction and Mental Health Indicators Among Ontario Adults 1997-2011. 2012.

2. National Alcohol Strategy Working Group. Reducing Alcohol Related Harm in Canada: Toward a Culture of Moderation – Recommendations for a National Alcohol Strategy. 2007.

3. Babor, T. et al. Alcohol: No ordinary commodity – research and public policy, 2nd Edition. New York: Oxford University Press; 2010.

4. World Health Organization. Ottawa charter for health promotion: An international conference on health promotion, the move towards a new public health 17–21 November. c1986. Available from:

5. B.C. Healthy Communities. A Local Government Guide to Creating Municipal Alcohol Policy - British Columbia. 2012 [cited 2014 August 5]. Available from:

6. Douglas, R.R., Rylett, M., Narbonne-Fortin, C., & Gliksman, L. (1999). The evolution of municipal alcohol policy: Ontario 1980-1998. Municipal World, 109(7), 21-23

7. DePape, D., Leonard, M., Pollet, G. Health Benefits of Municipal Alcohol Policy: A Role for Public Health. Public Health Branch, Ontario Ministry of Health. September 1995. Available:

8. Government of Ontario. Ontario Public Health Standards 2008. Toronto, ON.: MOHLTC.

9. Government of Ontario. Prevention of Substance Misuse Guidance Document 2010. Toronto, ON.: MOHLTC.

10. Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion (Public Health Ontario), Health Promotion, Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention, Health Promotion Capacity Building. At a Glance: The Eight Steps for Developing a Municipal Alcohol Policy (MAP). Toronto. 2013.

11. CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre; Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion (Public Health Ontario). Making the case:Tools for Supporting Local Alcohol Policy in Ontario. Toronto, ON: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health; 2013.

12. Narbonne-Fortin, C., Rylett, M., Douglas, R.R., Gliksman, L. The Municipal Alcohol Policy Guide: a practical resource for successfully managing drinking in recreational settings. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Toronto: 2003.

13. BC Healthy Communities. Municipal Alcohol Policy Workbook: A resource for successfully managing alcohol use in municipal settings. British Columbia. [in press] 2013.