Bar closing times punishing the wrong people

Normally I would have a degree of empathy with the authorities over bar regulations. It is not pleasant to be breaking up fights between drunks; cleaning up after a road accident that involved alcohol or dealing with other antisocial behaviour brought on by drunkenness. Nor can it be pleasant in Accident and Emergency wards to be treating injuries resulting from drunkenness.

But in councils across New Zealand we are seeing a tendency to introduce bylaws that punish the wrong people who comply with the law and the instructions of bar staff. We are tending to see a fear of upsetting authorities amongst the people who introduce these laws of the hospitality sector, which employs so many people and gives an outlet for a bit of socializing. I feel that the issue is generally not the bars, but the availability of alcohol outside of these premises – do we really need wine and beer week for example at Pak N Save? Do we really need two alcohol stores, two supermarkets, and four bars all within 400 metres of each other? That is almost a sort of saturation level in terms of availability.

I frequent a couple of bars on a regular basis. One is a common bar with Guinness, Tui, Speights and so forth on tap with beers such as Tiger and Heineken in the fridge. It is a sports oriented bar that has its peak activity on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Clientele tend to be more from the trades often still in work gear and local businesses. The other is a bar and restaurant that has Macs Gold, Kilkenny, Speights and so forth on tap, with beers by more distinctively New Zealand labels such as Emersons in the fridge. Its clientele are a bit older, and the staff generally more experienced with more rigorous training.

In all the many times I have been to both, I have never seen serious drunkenness requiring eviction by the staff or police intervention. This is despite quite different approaches to security.

However the current moves seek to punish the 90-95% of patrons who are responsible, well behaved and out to remember their night for the right reasons. How is that fair? Why not punish the trouble making minority harder? They cause the havoc that my/your/our tax payer dollars are forked out for to cover the cost of cleaning up. Shouldn’t they be the ones who are made to atone for their conduct?



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