Auckland needs more bars open late, not fewer.
Every other day we hear passionate calls for alcohol restrictions. Fewer bars, fewer bottle stores, shorter hours and bigger drink-free zones. The idea is simple. Make it really hard for people to get booze and they'll drink less. This is all very well but what happens when I want to go out for a late-night drink?
The Cricket World Cup semifinal between the Black Caps and South Africa was a tense affair. To quote Eminem, "Palms sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy. There's vomit on his sweater already, Mom's spaghetti."
I couldn't watch for most of it. I found myself huddled under a desk with my hands over my ears and my eyes clenched shut. That was problematic because I was calling the game for the Alternative Commentary Collective. Hard to tell people what's happening in a game when you are too scared to look at it. Luckily relief was on its way.
When Grant "The Hairy Javelin" Elliott smashed Dale Steyn over cow corner for six the room erupted. My colleagues exploded into mad jubilance, jumping and hugging and dancing and screaming. Big stinky men in their 30s cuddling and yelping like little girls at a slumber party. It was emotional and beautiful. We were on the highest of highs. Years of pain and hurt released in a millisecond of pure cricketing ecstasy. I was so happy and proud. It was very similar to the way I felt when my sons were born.
Ahh the Hairy Javelin. At that moment it didn't matter if we won the final or not, we had witnessed heroics and history. Everyone in that room knew that with hearts beating hard we would not be getting any sleep any time soon. The Black Caps were in the final and it was the greatest feeling in the world. After 20 minutes of hand slapping, table flipping and man-on-man sports fan dry-humping, the team decided to do what all right-minded people would do, wet that Black Caps victory with a few quiets.
After waiting for a taxi for so long we all converted to Uber, we finally arrived at the Northern Steamship Company at Britomart. I was so excited to get a drink. To honour the team. To clink glasses with best buddies and say "how good was that?". But the unthinkable happened. We had missed last drinks and the place closed. I don't blame the bar, they were just following the law. Keeping to their licence. Punishments for breaking booze rules are brutal.
We found ourselves turfed out on to the street thirsty and deflated. The Elliott high slowly slipped away from us. A full hour had passed since the great moment and we hadn't even honoured it with a drink. A group of passionate fans essentially disrespecting their team with dryness.
We were not alone. The streets were packed with poor lost cricket wraiths looking for a place to celebrate. But nowhere was open. Nothing happening. That night New Zealand's biggest and most exciting city turned its back on its people and closed down when it was needed most. We passed bar after bar with chairs on tables. Joy had turned to disaster, desolation and despair. Finally, and thankfully, we found an oasis. More accurately, a low-rent betting bar. We grabbed a table and bought ourselves bottles and bottles of bubbles and beers but it was too late. The moment was gone. We all slunk off home to our families feeling abandoned by our city.
I can only imagine what tourists to our shores think of the closed bar situation. Arriving in their thousands flush with cash only to find the city closed. We must be missing out on millions in hospo dollars. Beautiful country, great people but where's the party at?
Yet some still push for tighter restrictions. Hunting down pubs, bars and family-owned bottle stores like poachers hunt white rhinos.
To those of you who fight to shut bars and shorten hours I know you believe in your heart that you are doing good. But please pause and spare a thought for the damage you do the community. The pain you inflict on those of us who drink to honour the successes of New Zealand heroes.
When something truly good happens in this country we Aucklanders deserve the chance to celebrate long and hard into the night in the city we love so dearly.