Controversial New Law Would Allow Police to Toss People from Bars before They Do Anything Illegal

This new law would allow police to evict someone from a bar before they did anything illegal, or even shady.

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The George Street Association has expressed concern that a biker gang is trying to set up shop in St. John’s, and may even have plans to take over a bar on George Street.

Executive director of the George Street Association, Seamus O’Keefe, claims that, among bar owners, there is a perceived increase in bike gang members on the street. He also says the number of physical assaults have increased in the last two months, as has how violent the fights have been.

In response to this, the George Street Association have begun training their security/doormen in how to handle these matters, and who to call, and what to do “in certain situations.”

O’Keefe has also met with the RNC to discuss the matter of increased gang-related violence, and since those talks, police officially want bar owners and staff to contact them as soon as a suspected gang member enters their bar.

The idea is that early detection of a gang member in a bar will prevent a violent episode. And the idea has gone so far that there is now a proposed amendment to our province’s “Liquor Control Act.”

The amendment would give police the right to rid a bar of anyone they deemed likely to commit assault in that bar, even before any intention to do so is displayed. In other words, police would be able to evict someone from a bar before they did anything illegal, or even shady.

The amendment is overtly and openly aimed at gang members, to “stop gang violence before it starts,” and it’s not just bars that police could evict people from, but restaurants or even a general area (like George Street itself).

On any given weekend, George Street will see 5,000 patrons looking to party, and the George Street Association is afraid that the presence of a bike gang members in their bars will scare away business, and taint the Street’s reputation for being a safe place to party with friends. (Insert comment here about whether it’s ever been the safest street downtown.)

To be thrown out of a bar before you do anything wrong is quite easy to see as a violation of human rights. It’s a slippery slope – and a bit absurd – to think this can, and will, only be applied exclusively and fairly to violent gang members.

In fact, it wouldn’t be: the law would allow police to toss whomever they want, from any establishment, for no quantifiable cause.

But O’Keefe contends it is a necessary tactic to keep George Street safe in the face of violence too extreme for bounders to handle, and he says he doesn’t expect the amendment to affect “regular patrons.” I.e, your average hard ticket.

The amendment would also make it harder for some people — suspected or known criminals (Read: bike gangs) — to get a liquor license and start their own bar.

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2 Comments

  • Anything that gives more control to the police removes freedom from everyone else. While I understand the intent, it certainly should not be passed (and I doubt it would stand up to a human rights challenge).
    The controls on liquor license ownership should be enough of a change to satisfy the bar owners.

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