It's come to something when a town's publicans have to unite to take on drunkenness.
I know that sounds a little facetious. It's not meant to. But it is a little ironic to see those managing licensed premises, selling liquor, having to form an accord in order to keep intoxication, with all the social problems that come with it, off the streets.
But that's what's happened in Timaru this week. The project neatly falls under the acronym Catapult (Changing Attitudes Towards Alcohol Project, United Licensees Timaru).
One of the signatories, Barney Cahill, told the Herald it had come about because of a recent major shift in levels of intoxication.
The accord partly reflects the fact that it's always been a part of a publican's responsibility to ensure that patrons' consumption doesn't go beyond acceptable levels; to say "Sorry, I think you've had enough" when the punter who's clearly starting to move towards inebriation asks for one more. Essentially, licensed premises are supposed to be places where people can enjoy a few drinks in a safe atmosphere without having to be worried about the behaviour of others, not have a skinful and become downright objectionable.
This initiative, though, takes the responsibility to a completely new level for publicans and restaurateurs, with premises working together, communicating via smartphones, to ensure those who've had enough, or are showing signs of some dodgy behaviour, are not jettisoned from one pub only to wander into another one and carry on drinking.
It's a good idea, which can only help in the battle against anti-social behaviour that often results in damage to property and even serious harm to those who get in the way.
Sadly, the fact that licensees have had to do this also reflects some problems out of their control. Anecdotally, one of the problems pubs face is patrons who get "pre-loaded" at home before heading out on the town. Hopefully this initiative will see those who arrive at a pub already "three sheets to the wind" barred from entering and unable to find an establishment in central Timaru that will take them.
Of course, it's a balancing act for licensees, who still want to attract customers to make their operations profitable.
There's also the potential challenge for the police that this could simply move heavy drinking to the suburbs and result in more out-of-control parties. That will have to be kept in mind, but it's certainly not a reason not to give this initiative a full go. It deserves to succeed.
- The Timaru Herald