Working up a thirst for trouble
The tills are ringing at Christchurch pubs thanks to unattached, cashed-up tradies blowing big bucks on booze.
Bars which previously had the odd labourer in for a beer on the way home are now heaving with high-vis vests on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
Many rebuild workers, particularly those from abroad, are spending several hundred dollars a night, several times a week.
But with the drinking comes an increase in anti-social and violent behaviour - fighting, damaging property and urinating on shop doorways.
Bealey's Speight's Ale House bar manager Sam Kumbaroff said business had increased 10-fold thanks to the rebuild worker clientele.
Most of the big-spending regulars were from the United Kingdom or Ireland.
"Definitely a lot of guys come in and are spending two, three, four hundred dollars a night, and they're down a couple of times a week," he said.
Sometimes it was the boss shouting, or each would buy a few rounds, but if one of them had a good night at the casino, he was buying all the drinks.
Kumbaroff said it had been positive for the central city business, which used to rely on locals.
"Now, you could come in on a Friday night and there will be 150 to 200 high-vis jackets here."
The bar even started a Tradies and Ladies Night on Thursdays, offering a free barbecue and discounted drinks for tradie card holders.
Kumbaroff said 99 per cent of the clientele was well-behaved and "hilarious", and the boon to business had the flow-on effect of requiring more staff.
Pegasus Arms Restaurant and Bar business development manager Alex Brackstone said things got so busy with rebuild workers, they introduced a dress code banning high-visibility clothing after 7pm.
"It was almost too much for us at one stage," she said.
"A couple of cold drinks after work is lovely. After 7pm, we expect people to go home, freshen up and come out again. We don't want people coming in for a meal to have a massive group of testosterone meeting them."
The Fitz Tui Clubrooms owner Dave McLachlan said the biggest nights for tradies were Thursdays and Fridays. The only challenge was getting more women through the door.
However, the behaviour was not always good.
Stopping Violence Services chief executive Paul Shamy said a trend had emerged in the past few months of rebuild workers being sent on from the courts for alcohol-induced violence.
"A lot of them are younger guys, away from home, who are very well paid and don't know what to do with their money, so they spend it on drink and issues of violence start to increase."
It was not significant numbers, but it would be "interesting to watch" if they increased.
Inspector Derek Erasmus said the majority who moved to the city were good people looking for opportunity, but the influx of "undesirables" was "no secret".
Some of the offending seen was breaching liquor bans, urinating on shop doorways, fighting and damaging property, he said.
"It's difficult to characterise [migrant workers] as drunks, as we've got plenty of our own home-grown ones."
Rather, it was "a phenomenon we know exists".
One front-line officer said the behaviour he encountered from tradies was "the same as you would from a six-month-long rugby trip - some let the group down as a whole".
Another said, "the majority of jobs are still Kiwi idiots".
- © Fairfax NZ News
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