Tuesday, July 8, 2008

It’s Closing Time

It has emerged that Police in New South Wales are more concerned about the incidence of alcohol related crime than they are about illicit drug crime. Apparently it constitutes a significant proportion of the work they do. Their solution is simple. Curtail the trading hours of licensed premises. It has to be said that this is a common sense approach which would have direct results. But is it the right approach?

As long as we make the distinction between responsible drinking and irresponsible or binge drinking, there will always be the risk of penalizing the many in an attempt to regulate the few. Why shouldn’t a sensible responsible person enjoy a few drinks with friends at four in the morning? In a large international city such as Sydney it is reasonable to expect there to be venues which are open very late, or very early depending on how you look at it. But given the problems that clearly do exist, perhaps there are too many of them, or perhaps some of them are in locations which may not be appropriate.

When it comes to extended trading hours it has to be asked just who is doing all the drinking at that time of day. Surely the answer is largely the problem drinkers, because all the responsible drinkers have already made a night of it and gone home to bed. I know, I’m sounding like a fuddy duddy, and a hypocrite, especially as I have enjoyed the occasional late night myself. But when people are beating each other up in the street we have to ask if it’s worth it. If people seem to be incapable of enjoying the privilege of late trading responsibly, then it is appropriate to remove that privilege.

Of course, simply closing earlier completely ignores all the take away alcohol that is consumed elsewhere, usually in private homes but not always, and which fuels domestic violence and other physical assaults, not to mention malicious damage and of course road accidents.

There is no one simple solution, but reducing trading hours will not unduly inconvenience the responsible drinker, but will effectively reduce the opportunity for social drinkers to become antisocial.

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