Our downtown enjoys a vibrant nightlife that has made us the envy of much larger centres across Canada and beyond. For such a relatively compact area, the range and quality of entertainment and hospitality that is available to HRM residents and tourists is second to none, which is why I am disturbed to note a cloud starting to obscure this positive state of affairs.
I'm talking about the unfortunate tendency of some people to come downtown to binge-drink and cause trouble and the unwillingness on the part of the province and bar owners to nip this situation in the bud, before it spreads.
Binge drinking - especially on weekends - is contributing to incidents of violence on our streets with individuals sometimes suffering serious injuries and even death. Many people are already intoxicated by the time they leave home and hit the bars where, in some establishments, they are served more drinks, in defiance of the Liquor Control Act. This high-risk behavior is most evident in those aged 18 to their mid-30s, however the situation becomes acute when thousands of university students flood into town each fall, as will soon be happening.
It is time those who have the authority to remedy this distressing state of affairs do so before it gets any worse. As Mayor, I am calling on the province, along with those bar owners and their staffs who are not obeying the law, to start being much firmer in enforcing the terms of the Liquor Control Act. I am doing this because, increasingly, what happens inside the bars and clubs is spilling out (literally) onto downtown streets where it then becomes HRM's responsibility and, unfortunately, our options are extremely limited. We can use zoning bylaws to try and control the spread of drinking establishments; we can authorize more taxis and late-night transit for the downtown, to encourage late-night crowds of drinkers to disperse before trouble starts. And we can try and find the money to increase existing police patrols.
The thing is, most of this would be unnecessary if the province enforced the Liquor Control Act more forcefully and if the local hospitality industry brought pressure to bear on those establishments whose owners and staff continue to encourage unhealthy drinking behaviour by patrons.
I acknowledge that drinkers themselves have an obligation to enjoy themselves in a safe and sensible way and must share some of the liability for what is happening. No question. That being said, however, I point the finger of most blame directly at those in authority who are not meeting their obligations to the rest of us. I call upon the minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, (the department which oversees the Alcohol and Gaming Division), and everyone in the hospitality industry to start exercising the control and leadership expected of them. Too many people have worked really hard to create a safe downtown nightlife with something for everyone that we cannot allow its reputation to be damaged. We all have a role to play and a responsibility to fulfill in this important issue.
I welcome your feedback. Please contact me at email@example.com or phone 490-4010.