Should Bartenders be Criminally Responsible for Drunk Driving?

Residents of Greater Madawaska Township, a small community outside of Ottawa, are grappling with a difficult question: should bartenders be criminally responsible for deaths caused by drunk driving? Ontario’s civil courts believe they should. Talented car accident lawyers have secured tens of thousands of dollars in compensation from negligent bars, taverns, and restaurants. However, Madawaska residents are reluctant to blame a neighbour for an accident that left deep scars on the community.

The Accident

In October 2017, four 18-year-olds were involved in a single-vehicle accident on Calabogie Road north of Calabogie. The driver died at the scene, a second boy died later in hospital, and the other two were seriously injured. Three of the boys were not wearing seatbelts.

All four teens were talented hockey players with the Renfrew Timberwolves Junior B team, and all four had been drinking at Shooters Bar and Grill in Calabogie on the night of the crash. The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) confirmed that alcohol was a factor in the accident.

Investigation and Charges

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), which distributes Liquor Sales Licenses in the province, inspected Shooters Bar and Grill and revoked its license following the crash. It noted numerous infractions including, according to CBC Ottawa:

  • Permitting apparent minors to have or consume liquor
  • Permitting liquor to be removed from the premises
  • Permitting drunkenness
  • Promoting ‘immoderate consumption’
  • Selling or supplying liquor to an apparently intoxicated person
  • Failing to verify the age of an apparent minor
  • Failing to maintain control over the premises

Shooters employee Ann Senack was later charged with two counts of criminal negligence causing death and two counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.


For car accident lawyers in Ontario, the charges are unsurprising. Civil lawsuits against bars are not uncommon in personal injury cases. But criminal charges are rare and will be difficult to prove.

“It would be precedent-setting in my view,” said James Foord, former president of the Defence Counsel Association of Ottawa, to the CBC. “It’s rare because serving someone is lawful. Drinking is lawful.”

CBC interviews suggest Greater Madawaska residents have sympathy for Senack.

“It’s horrible what happened,” one local said. “If they were my children, I may have a different comment, but you know more and more people aren’t taking responsibilities for their actions. To put the blame on someone else is not correct. These kids did what they did and there are consequences to that, horrible consequences.”

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

Whatever the result of the criminal case against Ann Senack, bars and restaurants will continue to be liable in the eyes of the civil court. If you’ve been injured in an accident involving a drunk driver, contact Will Davidson LLP today to learn how we can help. Our team of experienced car accident lawyers will assess your claim and provide guidance as you consider legal action.

We can help

What area do
You need help in?