This Marks the Least Logical Idea from City Council in a While

Decisions about downtown pub culture should be left to a council of bar staff, not those so oblivious to bar culture.

Everyone in St. John’s wants our streets as safe as possible. That’s a fact. But can’t we apply some logic to how we go about that, instead of making some wild changes that have no historical proof or rational thought behind them? This afternoon, city council will discuss the idea of closing bars on George Street – and therefore all bars in town, so George Street bars aren’t disadvantaged – at 1 am.

Inherently Violent People, Not Alcohol, Are to Blame for Violence: Remedy THAT.

Arbitrarily ringing the last call bell at 1, instead of 3, simply will not end violence. It’ll just encourage people to go downtown earlier, and be as drunk by 1 am as they used to be by 3 am. Violent people will be violent people. The way to alleviate that is not closing bars earlier. It’s social programs, education, counselling, rehabilitation, or incarceration. The bars are not the problem, the people fighting in them are. And they represent less than 1% of us. As a solid drinker of 20 years, I’ve never become aggressive when drunk, nor have I observed that in drunken friends or family. Take a trip to a city like Paris or Barcelona, where people regularly and legally drink outdoors, in beautiful parks, or along the Seine River until the sun comes up. The boozing doesn’t lead to belligerence and crime, it leads to friendly encounters and good times with perfect strangers from all over the world. Alcohol doesn’t make good people vicious. If anything, it’s known to make people more friendly and social. And hell, more brave and likely to intervene if they witness an assault. A naturally violent person might be more prone to starting a fight if drunk, sure, but the cure for that is somehow combating the number of inherently violent people in our streets. A violent nature is an innate biological mystery and social behaviour that will not be cured by bar closures.

We’ve Already Tried Closing Bars Earlier, Remember? It Clearly Didn’t Work

People who turn nasty turn nasty upon getting high as a kite, drunk as a dog, or set off by someone else, and that can happen at 1 am just as easily as 3 am or noon. Just this Friday there was a serious mob attack on someone inside a bar on Duckworth, and it happened before midnight. Midnight, not 3. Besides, we’ve tried this before: there was a time bars closed well after the sun was coming up. It was maybe ten years ago the 3 am last call came into play. Obviously closing bars earlier didn’t work then, so why will it now? If anything, forcing bars to close at the same time is a BAD idea. It pumps the streets full of drunk fools at the exact same time, so they run into each other en masse. Let bars close whenever they want – midnight, 1, 3, never – and bam, congestion problem solved. And getting a 3 am cab will be twice as easy. The only thing most people get angry about at 3am is fighting over a cab. “I saw it first!” People literally jump at cabs in hopes to secure one.

A Similar Decision in the Past is to Blame for Everyone Showing Up to Bars Shitfaced

There was a time bars sold cheap drinks, believe it or not. And then a minimum allowable deal became the law. The logic being, “People get too drunk off $2 martinis” or whatever, and so booze became more expensive in bars, creating a late night culture in St. John’s wherein people “prime” at a friends until 11 or midnight before going downtown, because they couldn’t afford the drinks downtown. So we created a culture of people showing up shitfaced at bars, in an attempt to spend less in them (a strike against local businesses!) Anything we do to combat excessive drunkenness won’t work – the innovation of a the human spirit to get hammered on the weekend is unbreakable. The weeks are long, you’ll never strip away that desire.

Maybe Leave These Decisions to People Who Understand Downtown Culture

People who go downtown in St. John’s are accustomed to going downtown late. 11 pm would be early. If you’re going to catch a band, after midnight is pretty standard. Shifting last call to 1 am will only mean people go down a little earlier, therefore getting really drunk by 1 instead of by 3. Is that really not obvious? That is an oversight which could be made only by people who don’t spend time downtown. Decisions about downtown pub culture should be left to a council of bar staff or regular patrons who want safer streets, not those so oblivious to bar culture.

This Will Unfairly Penalize Pubs Not Even on George Street

If George Street bars are forced to close at 1, then the George Street Association will naturally cry unfair treatment, demanding that bars not on George Street, including live music venues – institutions! – like The Ship, The Levee, and The Black Sheep, should have to close at 1 too. That’s plain unfair for these pubs and their lifelong patrons. Why should they pay for the sins of the Fighty McFightersons who frequent George Street? And if these non-George-Street bars DON’T have to close at 1 along with George Street, than damn are they ever going to get congested with George Street overflow, causing potentially catastrophic, identity-crisis-inducing mixtures of demographics in places who have positioned themselves as friendly beacons of live music and artistic culture. It’s easy to picture 40 drunken George Streeters pour into The Ship out of necessity, shouting at a band to start playing some covers, like the b’ys up on George does. You’d be forcing previously opposing worlds to collide.

Crime in the City Isn’t Spiking, Media Coverage of it Is

All this hype about crime shouldn’t factor into the decision. The police are saying there is no spike in violent crimes here. What has spiked is media coverage of it, on account of slow news days. Every hint of a crime is scooped up and shared on social media, so, it feels more constant than it ever was, but it’s statistically not. Besides, to fight is human nature. If anything, we’re becoming more civilized every decade. It wasn’t that long ago we used to publicly torture people outside the courthouse.

Perhaps Enhanced Security, Maybe Even Busting Bartenders Who Deal Drugs, Is Best?

Drugs lead to violence moreso than booze, and  many violent people downtown are as high as they are drunk. What council and police should be doing is cracking down on the shadier dance bars, who are dealing drugs over the counter, or turning a blind eye to dealers and drug use in their bars. Crack down on drugs: don’t penalize boozers for what drug users are doing. Those of us who just want to piss, but have to wait until a stall of coke sniffers are all done would probably appreciate a security guard not allowing coke in the bar. Security cameras come up a lot too: a lot of people feel more security cameras in the bar will lead to deterred crime, or at least, more arrests and less tolerance of re-admitting known fighty types.

Moving Food Vendors is Absurd

City councillors are stating that, after last call, people end up out on George Street en masse, getting into undesirable behaviour, and appearing in clusters at food vendors. So they might move food vendors away from bars. But why won’t the exact same thing happen at 1 instead of 3? And people will just walk to the farther away food vendors in clusters, won’t they? Except they’d be doing so through less crowded streets with fewer witnesses should an attack occur. So all council is doing is uprooting business owners, and inconveniencing hungry folks and the sacred tradition of gross late night food. And more importantly, a review of late night assaults simply does not imply that most attacks occur in pizza joint or poutine lines.

UPDATE: COUNCIL HAS ESSENTIALLY DROPPED PURSUING THIS. 

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10 Comments

  • Bars and pubs are not actually allowed to open until 3:00 seven days a week, those hours are restricted to the weekend. And clubs can close now whenever they want; most stay open until 3:00 because their competitors do. Any club that operates off George St. will tell you that after about 1:30 the trade they get is often more trouble then it’s worth. However, if your competitors are open until 3:00 you don’t have much choice. This is all a pile of nonsense anyway, the City has no power to regulate opening and closing hours, that is in the hands of the NLC, and they answer to no one but the premier’s office.

  • While I agree that perhaps people will only go out earlier and be just as drunk come closing time, I do hope the closing times are adjusted. I’m in my early 30’s and I love going out to pubs and to see live music, etc. but I hardly go to shows anymore because the headliner doesn’t even hit the stage until 1:30am. By the time you get some food and go home it’s anywhere between 3:30 and 5am (depending on if the bar has a, “you can stay and ‘finish your drink’…” policy going). By that time you’ve been up almost 24 hours and the rest of your weekend is a write-off.

    The 1am last call has been working brilliantly in Toronto. Get off work, get some food (or eat out if you’re that concerned for how early last call will effect local business), have a beer with supper, catch the opening act at 9, the second band at 10, and the headliner at 11. By 1:00 you’re just as drunk as you would have been by 3, but if you sleep in until 10 you’ll have had 9 hours sleep. Win-win if you ask me. Then again, maybe I’m too old for this s#!+.

  • Shocking. The rise of Neo-prohibitionism. Moralists high on themselves….don’t drink, dance, or have fun…it’s sinful. You are so right, Chad. Having made beverage alcohol for near on three decades now, I’ll say two things: 1/ Really don’t like drunk people generally. Too unpredictable. 2/ Chronic alcohol abusers, like any other substance abusers, are generally suffering from some unresolved emotional/mental issues. They are self medicating and self abusing.

    The majority of drinkers will get drunk on occasion. This is generally a good thing. Ten thousand years of human history cannot be wrong in this regard. Doing it in a controlled, safe environment is fun and memorable for most.

    Regular beat cops (2 teams of two walking up and down the strip in opposite directions from 8 ’til 4 every night) would help immensely. Get out of the damned squad cars. Present yourselves as both human and present.

  • Oh man, if this passes I’m totally investing in paper bag futures and starting a poutine truck in the park. I can’t wait unit a city full of adult drinkers is forced back to pre-legal late-night loitering.

  • Agreed on media coverage of crime being up, not necessarily crime itself. Doesn’t that mean that the argument that the recent-ish move to the 3am last call might have actually worked? Police say they get less calls to George Street now, though none of us have seen real numbers for that (and the downtown core generally), and if so can’t they point to the earlier last call as a reason why (whether or not it’s the truth)?

    • True. And the purpose of this article is to start some dialogue like yours — you might be right! I’m just arguing that the degree of intoxication, not the hour of the night, is the key here. And changing last call to 1, not 3, will only mean people go downtown earlier. And still be as drunk (or high) by 1 as they normally are by 3. Maybe.

      • Yeah, and I’m not sure I buy the argument, only that it’s one we should expect. It’s interesting to see Montreal (admittedly a vastly different city) moving in a different direction by allowing districts where bars can stay open till 6:00 AM.

        • They actually staggered closing times in Montreal so different areas of the city have different closing times. 1-2-3-4-5-6. This way there isn’t a shortage of cabs because they know where to be and when and this is something I think St Johns should look into as well

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