Best Bar None – Accreditation for safety and service in Alberta

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Best Bar None in Alberta (and Calgary!)

Some months ago I was invited by the AGLC (Alberta Gaming & Liquor Commission) to attend a press/media trip tour of establishments in downtown Calgary to learn about their program called Best Bar None. It’s a voluntary accreditation offered by the AGLC to any bar, club or other similar establishment to adhere to a series of guidelines and procedures that promote responsible management and operation of their business. Best Bar None exists to inform patrons that if a place is BBN accredited, they’ve gone through some rigorous training and learning to offer the safest most welcoming of places to get your drink on.

Here’s a video the AGLC put together on the Best Bar None program (from the night I was there):

I went on this tour, and it was interesting, so now I’m going to tell you about the AGLC’s Best Bar None program in Alberta, because you probably haven’t heard of it.

Record scrattttttch. Hold up. I know you probably don’t like the AGLC because they control our precious precious booze, but hear me out. While on the tour I learned that this is actually a really good idea. Not everyone agrees with decisions the AGLC makes (omg please just let us buy booze from grocery and convenience stores), but the Best Bar None program is different. As I mentioned, it’s voluntary, so nothing is forced on anyone or any business, and the end result is a safer and better night out for everyone. Patrons, establishments, law enforcement all benefit from a program like this.

The goal of the program is simply to raise standards and to reward excellence (from their handbook). Meeting the requirement for BBN accreditation isn’t exactly easy either. Establishments must meet numerous mandatory policies and procedures, and training staff on things takes time and money. Taking your staff away from serving customers to train them on something needed for a voluntary accreditation really shows how dedicated some businesses are to this.

Best Bar None in the news

There are several establishments in and around downtown and the beltline area that are Best Bar None accredited. Below is a screenshot from right now (Jan 31 2018), but if you’d ever like to see the current list, click here:

Best Bar None

Number of Best Bar None accredited establishments – Dec 2016

If an establishment would like to get accredited, go here:

  • Edmonton – 75
  • Calgary – 58
  • Grande prairie – 11
  • Lethbridge – 10

Sadly Edmonton is leading the way, but Calgary is catching up. Much like in hockey, we need to beat them with this.

Best Bar None Origins

Fun fact (I guess kind of fun?) the Best Bar None program was created by police officers in the Manchester, England, in the early 2000’s. I was actually in the UK in 2001, in Wales. It was the first time I had met my dads side of the family, and the lifestyle and culture there is basically drinking.. so we drank a lot. The regulations are so.. different, over there. There’s so many little kitchens and bars and pubs and clubs all over the place that I imagine it’s a pretty difficult struggle for the authorities to ensure people get home safely. Having some teamwork and consistency from the local population will go such a long way.

Check out the UK Best Bar None program here:

Best Bar None Requirements

To receive the accreditation a series of requirements must be met (duh). There’s a mandatory checklist, and bonus points can be earned by meeting optional checks. Bonus points win you recognition in the form of their annual Best Bar None Awards.

Here’s the actual Best Bar None PDF with all of the info, if you’re interested: clicky click click.

Best Bar None

It might seem like this is somewhat basic stuff, but it’s nice to see listed off and acknowledged. Of course, as well, this isn’t to say an establishment that doesn’t use the Best Bar None program doesn’t meet or exceed any of these things, but it is pretty nice someone is out there checking.

Best Bar None

I especially like the bonus point over having signage advertising free (or reduced cost) non-alcoholic drinks for pregnant women. Would love to see that at more places! And for designated drivers.

Best Bar None

Having your staff trained on how to use the video equipment seems like a no brainer, but that’s not something I’ve ever even thought about. Getting footage from security cameras can be time sensitive, and things can end up getting overwritten.

Best Bar None

If you ever go into an establishment and see the Best Bar None accreditation, you’ll know some of what they went through to get it. See the PDF checklist for everything.

Best Bar None Testimonial from Commonwealth

I thought it would be a good idea to reach out and actually hear from someone directly that takes part of the Best Bar None program. I sent an e-mail off to the people behind Commonwealth Bar & Stage, whom are already a part of the program, and asked a few questions about what they think of it. (Thanks Colin!)

Commonwealth Logo

Commonwealth location: 731 10th ave sw.

Commonwealth Bar & Stage is an old warehouse converted to a revelrous night destination in Calgary’s downtown that is the only venue to feature two distinct floors of sound and a vintage fashion-forward aesthetic -for the simple purpose of delivering a good time with good music.

  • Why do you adhere to the program?
For us, it shows a level of commitment to our patrons, that we take their health and safety seriously. Calgarians have so many entertainment options available to them and we want to make sure we’re doing our best to earn their support. 
  • What do you like most about the program?
To be honest, it keeps us sharp. Being Best Bar None accredited is a lengthy process, so to adhere to all of the standards, all of our staff and management need to be mindful that we’re doing everything the right way all of the time. 
  • Would you recommend this program to other bars/clubs/etc in Calgary?
Absolutely. If not for all of the reasons above, but it’s also something to be proud of and shows we’re part of a responsible bar/nightlife community. 

Final Thoughts

Before going on this tour I had no idea the Best Bar None program even existed. That’s not too surprising, really. I don’t work in the industry nor do I own a bar or club. I think the program certainly has it’s merits, because the whole point of it is a better experience for people like you and me. More training and guidelines on what to do when people are drinking. The more training, the better, for reals. Not having a cooperative or organized bar on your side could be such a pain. Like, let’s say you’re walking by and a drunk guy takes a swing at you. You will want the bouncers that have lots of training coming to help you.. lol. You’ll need the surveillance footage for court or something like that. It’s the little things right?

Everyone deserves the right to go out and have a good time without some drunk idiot ruining it, please make sure you can handle your booze. And don’t forget to drink lots of water before bed to prevent a nasty hangover. Or don’t, I’m not your mother, or the AGLC :Þ

Thanks AGLC for taking me along.

Now.. if you would just allow booze to be sold in grocery stores…  or allow marijuana to be sold in liquor stores, that would be great.



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