Time to call last drinks?

There’s no questioning that alcohol causes more than it’s fair share of problems in our society – health, social, economic, you name it.  But sadly there are no easy solutions to these problems; consumption of alcohol is ingrained in so many aspects of our society and prohibition has been shown time and again to simply not be effective.

Alcohol plays an important role in the night time social environment of many parts of the City and beyond. But is the cost to the community worth it?

Earlier this year, a group calling themselves the “Last Drinks Coalition“, made up of police officers, paramedics, doctors and nurses, launched a campaign intended to curb alcohol fueled violence, particularly against members of their professions.  The campaign calls for a state wide 3am closing time for pubs and clubs, with a 1am lockout and a ban on the sale of high alcohol content drinks after 10pm.

The campaign is certainly well intentioned and is backed up by some impressive statistics from a similar program carried out in Newcastle since 2008, which has seen a significant drop in late night assaults and other anti-social and criminal behaviour.

However it is hard to say if this is best way forward.  After all, the majority of people who frequent pubs and clubs late at night do not become violent or anti-social.  Is it appropriate to punish all for the actions of a minority?

3am closing would also make a significant dent in the profit margin of many pubs and clubs and may drive some out of business.  Such businesses make a significant contribution to the economy of the City of Sydney and many other places, often serving as important sources of employment for students and other young people.

And what about the issue of transport, if thousands of people are suddenly ejected out on to the streets simultaneously at 3am?

All these issues are things that I will need to consider when it comes time to vote on Council’s new late night trading Development Control Plan.  And it is an issue that will need to be dealt with in the lead up to the state election only a few months from now. 

I would love to hear from anyone with expertise, experience or even just strong opinions in this field as to what they think the best way forward is in dealing with alcohol related crime.  Feel free to leave a comment or to email me on idoutney@cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au.  All feedback will be most appreciated.



Image by Orin Zebest, use authorised under Creative Commons.


One response to “Time to call last drinks?

  1. I just heard Associate Professor Tanya Secrezi (?) from NDARC speaking on the radio. She said 70% of harms from alcohol derive from bottleshop sales, both in public and private homes. The trouble with prohibitionist attempts to control culture is the balloon effect — squeeze one bit and it pops out somewhere else. Squeezing the public aspect of drinking will just send more of it into private homes (read: next door to you!) where people are unsupervised and police and emergency services are further away.

    But underlying all this is a moral panic. After the Professor they had an ambulance paramedic talking about the worst-case scenario she had ever encountered. But with 6,000 people per hour walking down Bayswater Road between 1 and 2am on a weekend, the actual incidence of problems is minuscule compared to the numbers. What I see night after night is a great party, not girls slashing themselves with broken glass as the paramedic described. I am very suspicious when the police get political. Their job is to protect us from baddies, not to engineer culture.

    And your point about public transport at 3am is a huge one. Chuck everyone out at 3am and I guarantee serious incidents will escalate as people compete for scarce cabs. Staggered hours — as we have now — are far more sensible.

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