Price tag on new drinking era

By Don Kavanagh

Don Kavanagh looks at the law's latest bid to control liquor and has an idea.

Turning all the boozers out on to the streets at the same time ... yes, that's a good idea. Photo / Dean Purcell
Turning all the boozers out on to the streets at the same time ... yes, that's a good idea. Photo / Dean Purcell

You probably won't have noticed, but we've moved into a new age of drinking.

New laws on the sale and supply of liquor took effect on December 18 and the police have been busy visiting licensed premises and reminding people of their obligations.

I've always been fascinated by the police attitude to drink - while they officially decry the depredations caused by the abuse of alcohol, police bars are among the most unsavoury venues I've ever visited, packed with booze and hypocrisy, as officers swill down frightening amounts of booze and get merrily plastered.

One bar I know had the police visit for 45 minutes even though I'm told there were no issues with the way it was selling or supplying alcohol.

In the end they could only complain because the bar didn't offer a wide enough variety of food. If I was the owner, I would have sent the police a bill for the 45 minutes during which he was unable to sell anything.

You may not even have noticed the new laws taking effect, unless you've been out late.

One of the big changes is that bars must now close at 4am in the CBD and earlier in the suburbs.

Presumably this is because it's nicer to have all the drink-addled patrons emerging onto the streets at the same time. Can't see that causing any problems, can you?

The new laws are a result of all the recent knicker-wetting about our "out of control" drinking culture, and are an attempt to redress the balance and keep us all nice, clean and sober.

I'm not going to get into the subject of binge drinking here, because it's too deep a topic, but the major problem I can see with our drinking culture is that there are very few consequences and no personal responsibility at all.

If being under the influence of alcohol was an aggravating factor in court rather than a mitigating factor, people would soon change their behaviour.

If they couldn't rely on the old "I was drunk, your honour"excuse and had to face up to the consequences of their own actions, you'd soon see some behaviour modification.

The new laws will have one very certain effect on the art of drinking - they will make it more expensive.

The compliance costs involved in licensing have already gone up, and increased charges will inevitably be passed on to customers, so expect to be paying a little bit extra for your glass of pinot in the near future.

- Herald on Sunday

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