Proposed changes to the impaired driving law in Alberta is creating concern amongst bar and restaurant owners.
Paul Dundar, the food and beverage manager for the SAIT Student Association (SAITSA), agrees that the change in the law will affect the hospitality industry.
“Nobody will want to have a drink with their meal if they are driving home right away” he said, “Especially in fine dining where the clientele is older, they are more aware of the liabilities.”
Mark von Schellwitz, the Western Canada vice president of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association stated that the tougher laws will scare customers into staying home in an interview with CBC News.
In B.C. where similar legislation has already been in place since last year, the CRFA has reported a 20 per cent decrease in liquor sales.
Despite this concern about the industry, Dundar does not worry about business at The Gateway, which is run by SAITSA.
“It won’t change the way we serve because we are already really strict on how we pace our customers.”
Protocol at The Gateway calls for no more than four drinks an hour, per customer, as well as mandatory food purchase with alcohol between the hours of 10am and 2pm.
Dundar won’t be making any changes at The Gateway in terms of operations, mainly because of the bar’s location and demographic of its patrons.
Because the bar is located next to the C-Train line and near bus routes, and the patrons are mostly students with a small budget, many people are not driving home from.
Dundar recognizes that students want to drink and will spend their money on alcohol even if they don’t have very much of it.
“That choice will not be based on a new law; it will be based on their own principle of what they want to do that day.”
Still, other businesses are expressing their concern, with Von Schellwitz saying that his phone has been ringing off the hook with restaurant and bar owners expressing their opposition.
In Nanaimo, B.C., one businessman had to take some initiative in order to combat the drop in liquor sales in his and neighbouring businesses, according to an article in the Daily News.
Jerry Hong owns three businesses in downtown Nanaimo, all of which have felt the crunch from patrons living in different parts of the city choosing to stay in their own area, put off by the harsher impaired driving laws.
Hong is offering a free shuttle service to either of his downtown establishments from various parts of the city.
Reservations are required to use the 15-passenger shuttle, and offers pick-up and drop-off service.
However, the bus will only conduct a single pick-up during the night, meaning that if the passengers don’t want to leave, they will have to take a taxi.
Hong said the shuttle might give taxi’s more business because it will bring more people into downtown that otherwise might not have come.
He is planning to collaborate with some of his neighbouring eateries on the shuttle service to bring more people downtown for meals, hoping they will choose to frequent one of his clubs later on in the night.
Redford fully intends to have the legislation passed by the end of the year and has more been given more evidence to support her efforts.
New statistics released on Nov.23 by B.C. Premier Christy Clark show that since the impaired driving law was changed in Oct. 1, 2010, alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths have been reduced by 40 per cent.
But an outspoken B.C. lawyer, Paul Dorshenko, told the Calgary Sun that these stats are not necessarily the result solely of the change in the law.
He feels that extra policing put in place in the province along with the new law is what has made the difference.
In Alberta, not one member of the government has mentioned how similar results could be reached in Alberta by stepping up policing, rather than changing laws.
Calgary, for example, has only one Check Stop unit for a city of over a million people.
It has been suggested that perhaps extra policing in Alberta would yield a similar drop in impaired driving related deaths.
Dundar feels that the change of law is good in the sense it will kick some sense into society’s thoughts toward drinking and driving, but at the same time won’t make a whole lot of difference in the end.
“If you’re not going to drink and drive because you are a good person, you are not going to drink and drive. If you are a jerk you are going to drink and drive regardless of what the limit is.”
Public reaction appears to be mixed about whether bars and restaurants are going to experience a significant drop in liquor sales.
Lindsay Coward, 21 feels that the legislation won’t change the attitude about driving after one or two drinks, so drinking establishments shouldn’t be too concerned.
“More people who only had a drink or two are just going to get caught and punished,” she said.
Jordan Crawford, 25, on the other hand, feels that patrons might think twice about getting into a car even after one drink.
Crawford supports the harsher punishments that will come with the new legislation, but does not agree with the legal blood alcohol level being lowered.
He feels the number is too small and punishing someone for having one drink with dinner will not take care of the problem.
Instead it is the people on the roads with a blood alcohol level much higher that should be the concern.
The latest data out of Alberta shows that 63 per cent of fatally injured drivers who were under the influence had a blood-alcohol level of over 0.16.
On Nov. 17th, the Alberta government announced legislation, Bill 26, which allows licence suspensions and vehicle seizures for drivers who register a blood-alcohol level between 0.05 and 0.08 will be introduced in the fall sitting of the legislature.
Under the new legislation, first time offenders caught with a blood-alcohol level in that range will have their license suspended and vehicle apprehended for three days.
Upon their second time being caught, offenders will face a 15-day licence suspension and have their vehicle taken away for seven days.
They will also be required to take the Planning Ahead course, which provides information on alternative travel options for alcohol consumers.
The third offense will entail a 30-day suspension of licence and a 15-day vehicle apprehension, as well as an Impact course, which features a video showing the devastation of vehicle crashes.