PRIVATE CLUBS & CANADIAN LEGIONS
Private clubs - that is, clubs which do not allow entry to members of the public and in which service is provided by the members - are frequently exempted from the requirements of smoke-free bylaws (a notable exception is Ottawa's bylaw which covers such clubs). The private club issue is significant for two reasons:
- In some municipalities, restaurant and bar proprietors have tried to turn themselves into private clubs by issuing membership cards at the door to anyone wishing to enter, in exchange for a minimal fee, thus supposedly becoming a private club outside the authority of the bylaw.
- Canadian Legions, which have traditionally fallen within the usual definition of private clubs, have been increasingly opening their doors to the public for lunch or for special events, and hiring staff, due to declining membership. Nevertheless, they continue to insist on their right to operate as a private club under smoke-free bylaws. Click here to view a legal opinion on the exemption of Legions from municipal smoke-free bylaws.
The issue is straightforward: a municipality must decide whether it wishes to regulate private clubs at all. If it does, it should provide a definition of what constitutes a private club. One such definition reads in part as follows:
- The club must have a fixed membership list;
- Each member must pay an annual or periodic membership;
- The club must have an executive/leadership that is elected by all the members on an annual or periodic basis;
- The club must have a constitution or by-laws that provide the governing rules for the membership, executives, fees, etc.;
- The club must be not-for-profit;
- Non-members cannot enter the premises to consume food or alcohol unless accompanied by a member.
Incorporation of the above definition into the bylaw ensures that private club status cannot be quickly adopted by bars or restaurants, and also helps clarify the status of Canadian Legion branches.