Curmudgeon's "Opening Times" Column - April 2015
Breath-testing clubbers could easily set a precedent for ordinary pubgoers
IN RECENT months, there have been a growing number of stories involving the police “requesting” nightclubs to breath-test customers before allowing them entry, for example in Norwich, Loughborough and Croydon. The justification is that it makes it easier for door staff to refuse admission to customers who are already drunk, with the maximum alcohol level being generally set at twice the English drink-drive limit. That’s at least five pints, probably more, but, even so, it’s a level many people will reach on a weekend night out while not necessarily coming across as “drunk”.
To be fair, it is very much a police initiative, and the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) have come out strongly against it. The overall result will probably to deter customers from visiting nightclubs at all. However, being a touch cynical, it is not hard to imagine a kind of unholy allowance between the anti-drink puritans and the nightclub bosses, to discourage punters from pre-loading at Tesco or Wetherspoon’s, so they end up drinking more in the clubs at higher prices.
As it stands, it probably won’t affect you, and it certainly won’t affect me. However, it’s worth noting that some of these schemes include not just clubs but also the more nightlife-oriented pubs. Of course we are told that such things will never happen, but it’s all too easy to see the principle being extended in future years and being included in licence conditions. If the idea of breath-testing revellers out and about on foot becomes well-established, will we eventually see normal pubgoers taking a wander round their local hostelries on a Friday night being refused admission to their final destination due to having imbibed a bit too much Old Horizontal earlier in the evening?
Some countries are even considering alcohol limits for pedestrians
IT DOESN’T even stop there. In Spain, serious proposals have been put forward to breath-test pedestrians involved in traffic accidents to establish whether they should bear any share of the liability. You can sort of see the argument behind this, as, not entirely surprisingly, between 10 pm and 4 am four-fifths of pedestrian fatalities are above the drink-drive limit. However, drunken pedestrians are really only a danger to themselves, and even the possibility of being judged in this way would represent a significant curtailment of individual freedom, and would put a dampener on any kind of celebration or festivities outside the house. It would also be a crude one-size-fits-all measure when individuals’ reaction to alcohol can vary so widely
As with breath-testing clubbers, it’s all too easy to see the principle being extended to apply to pedestrians in general. A few years ago, research by the University of Adelaide in Australia – a country fast becoming the Nanny State capital of the world – seriously advocated the introduction of a 0.15% (150 mg) drink-walk limit as the best way of reducing pedestrian road deaths, and suggested this would meet with public acceptance as it would not affect most people.
Ideas such as this may seem outlandish and laughable today but, simply by raising the subject, it has opened what social scientists call an “Overton Window” whereby it becomes included within the scope of serious debate. There are many measures that would have been deemed unthinkable a generation ago but have now been brought into legislation. So don’t tell me you weren’t warned.