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Sunday 12 April 2015

Comment: 4am closure will yield new tradition

Posted in: NZ Writing
By Mike Binis - 27th August 2010

Mike Binis
Now that changes to the Liquor Laws are on the horizon, many are worried that when all the bars close at the same time, there will be a 4am spill. If there is, it will only last a week. After that, drunks will be wondering why they are still standing on the street with no place to go, when everyone else has moved on. A new tradition will emerge, and one that has existed in places like New York for decades.

In New York City, and up-state cities like Buffalo in Erie county, 4am has always been the final moment of sale for any establishment serving alcohol (they could remain open, just not sell alcohol.) Most patrons leave well before then to avoid being the 'last drunks' in the bar (a label kiwis seem to aspire to) so the streets are not filled with aimless revelers. But, wait, there's more. What developed was a restaurant culture: partiers leaving the bar and going to a restaurant for breakfast! No, not a kebab stand or Macca's, a REAL breakfast at a sit-down restaurant such as Denny's, or the dozens of really good 24 hour Greek restaurants, family restaurants, pancake houses, waffle houses, or egg & omlette breakfast specialty restaurants... all with free coffee & tea refills. True, these DID fill up at 4 and 5am, but prevented many from driving for hours after their last drink. They also brought a vibrancy to the city far better than a city full of drunks looking for the next pub. And by 6am, the streets were clear, clean, and safe for a new day.

What made this work was that it was universal and applied to everyone, no exceptions.

The other difference was that alcohol consumption (or it's mere presence) was allowed ONLY in licensed premises or on private property. NOT in public! Not on footpaths, not in cars on public roads, not at beaches or parks, not in car parks or bus stops. Ever. Parks and reserves, even beaches, could have designated picnic areas which allowed beer & wine, but ONLY if the local council or controlling body had licensed and took responsibility and patrolled it. And then only during daylight hours.

So, there were few drunks on the streets getting more drunk. Of course, abuses would occur, but law enforcement had a clear guideline to use. And the level of disorderly disruption was a mere fraction of what it is here, and in cities much, much larger than ours.

Mike Binis is door-man at Urge bar on Auckland's K' Rd, was an owner and operator of Shooters Bar just off K' Rd for 4 years. Mike grew up in New York State and honed his bar-hopping skills in New York City and his home-town of Buffalo.

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Mike Binis - 27th August 2010