Pub crawl crackdown is a bit over the top, isn’t it?


Is it just me, or do the liquor licensing enforcers at Lakes Environmental need to get a grip? 

Their bold crackdown on the commercial pub crawls being offered downtown, seemingly without complaint or trouble for the past few years, seems a bit over the top to me. 

I’ve never been on one of them – they’re generally the domain of visiting backpackers – but it can’t be any worse than the Queenstown pub crawls of old. 

Those were epic – believe me, I bought the t-shirt. Literally. 

The deal back when I was 17 (uh, just a couple of years ago) was you paid for a t-shirt that listed umpteen bar logos on the back of it. Each time you popped into one of those establishments you got a free drink and then another discounted one if you could handle it. They used a big marker pen to tick off the logo on the back of the shirt associated with the bar. Then you’d move onto the next establishment. 

I don’t think there was any written rule that said you had to tick all the bars off in one session – but for some reason my mates and I thought that seemed like the thing to try and do. 

Probably because were all bloody stupid 17-year-olds. 

From memory, and it’s a hazy one, we finished the tour in a day. Bought the t-shirt, took the ride. 

Not only was it a binge by any standards, but at the time we were also underage. Back then (you know, just a couple of years ago) you could probably have got entry to a bar with a doctored bus pass. 

If you were to judge today’s backpacker-targeted bar crawls by this rather loosely arranged t-shirt excursion involving pubs with even looser management, you’d give all the existing pub tour operations the official thumbs up.

But that’s not the standard our local liquor police judge them on. They use that rather subjective clause in our national liquor laws which says any licensee or manager of a licensed premises commits an offence “if they do anything in the promotion of the business conducted on the premises or in the promotion of any event or activity … that is likely to encourage persons on the premises to consume alcohol to an excessive extent”. 

Likely to encourage persons to consume alcohol excessively? 

If you’re going to ban organised pub crawls by that reckoning, you may as well ban birthdays, hen and stag nights, staff Christmas functions, New Year’s Eve and televised rugby fixtures. 

I’d suggest most of the country has been ignoring that little piece of legislation on a collective basis for quite a while. 

It’s not the pub crawls that are a problem – it’s the ingrained national booze culture, and that of most of our visitors, which means just about any excuse necessitates a binge … like arriving, leaving or Friday night. 

When I say binge, you might be surprised to know that the national Alcohol Liquor Advisory Council defines that as more than four standard drinks for the ladies and more than five for the blokes. For a lot of people, that’s just a few quiets. So quite why the liquor cops have got a bee in their bonnet about organised bar crawls is beyond me. 

I sent one of my colleagues on one this week to see if it encouraged excessive boozing. I wanted an accurate record of everything they provided you to drink. She texted me about an hour in to see if I minded if she had extra drinks on top because it wasn’t quite cutting it for a good time. 

At the end of the day, our boozy ways don’t pay much attention to subjective liquor laws and random crackdowns – personal responsibility has to be the key factor.