Thursday, July 03, 2008

Alberta solves bar violence...

... by increasing the number of drunk drivers and domestic altercations.

Clearly, there isn't a problem in Alberta this government doesn't believe it can regulate away.

In what is apparently an attempt to reduce the amount of violence in bars by drunken patrons, the Alberta government has introduced minimum drink prices, restrictions on happy hours and the maximum number of drinks that can be held by patrons after 1am.

From the government news release:

Minimum drink prices
Spirits and liqueurs - $ 2.75 per oz.
Wine - $ 0.35 per oz. ($1.75 per 5 oz. glass)
Draught beer - $ 0.16 per oz. ($3.20 per 20 oz. pint)
Beer, cider or coolers in cans or bottles - $ 2.75 per 12 oz. bottle or can

Happy hours
Licensees may reduce the regular menu price of drinks, but drinks can not be sold for less than the regular menu price after 8 p.m. At no time, even during ‘happy hours’, can a drink be sold for less than the new minimum price.

Maximum drink order
The maximum number and size of drinks that may be sold or served to a patron after 1 a.m. is limited to two standard servings per order - one standard serving is one ounce per highball or one bottle or can of beer. Also, a patron can’t have more than two drinks in their possession after 1 a.m.

How's this likely to work:

Minimum Drink Prices
The minimum drink prices will likely have little effect on most Albertans, negative or positive, as few places charge less than this now anyway, but the ones that do, cater to a clientele that are price sensitive. Most Albertans aren't going to pre-drink at home and then drive themselves to bars and still get in fights, but the ones who have less money may, particularly the 18-24 year old crowd -- like students. I'm not certain, but if you check to see which Albertans are getting really drunk and fighting, it probably isn't the 45-year old millionaire types.

Happy Hours
Again, those who are price sensitive will now be forced to either drink outside of bars, or to show up really early to get drunk. Is this what the government wants? Do they want to encourage people to be getting drunk at 7pm, and then vomiting in the street while children and families walk by?

Maximum drink order
The problem of people over indulging is not going to stop because the government has put in place rules that you can't hold more than two-drinks at a time. In fact, what do you think people holding five drinks will do when they see a "Government Drink Inspector" coming? Politely hand over their extra drinks? Or, down three of their drinks as quickly as possible? The goal is to stop binge drinking, and this will likely encourage it.

If bars are over-serving, there already are laws in place to charge those bars, you just have to enforce the current laws.

Moreover, is it really smart policy to put in place artificial last calls and closing times? Why should adult Albertans only be allowed to drink in a privately owned establishment until 2:30am? If bar owners were allowed to set their own hours, you wouldn't have hundreds of drunkards pouring out into the street exactly at the same time, all looking for taxis.

Plus, if some Albertan wanted to start her evening out at 1am, she wouldn't have to order 10 drinks as soon as she walked in the door to ensure she had enough to get her past the 2am last call. She could just go to a bar that was open longer hours.

The current rules have caused the last call binge drinking phenomenon, and these new rules are just going to force the drinking to other places, like homes or cars.

So, instead of encouraging people who want to indulge to come to a controlled environment, where police officers, trained serving staff and security can patrol many people in a small area, the Alberta government is encouraging people to stay at home, pre-drinking, and then drive themselves to bars. Or, just to stay home, get really drunk and fight their spouses.

Well, at least the government will be seen as "doing something." Huzzah!

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