Perth is known for strict regulations on the availability of liquor at venues. But to many it seems these laws aren’t strict enough, as bingeing and alcohol fuelled violence is escalating. This feeling that laws can change our social perspective and lifestyle habits is something that bothers me.
Over the last 100 years Australian law has made amazing progress in creating a more equal and fair society. From liberating women, and other previously marginalised groups, to banning child labour, to addressing a bunch of other civil rights issues that puts our country high up on the world index of ‘liveability’. These were progressive steps from our governing bodies and communities that have shaped a better society. But does the enforcement of liquor regulations fit in to this category?
If we step out of our incredibly isolated city, and move in to the liberally lucrative liquor licencing in Japan, we find alcohol easier to access than police. You can buy booze at every corner store. Crack a tinnie while walking down the street or while staring at eclectic strangers on their crazy complex metro system. Every venue provides alcohol, no meal needed. So from the perspective of us Perthians, this place must be rampant with alcohol fuelled violence, the young must be completely wasting themselves, and the country itself must be rotting at the core from a deep psychological dependency on this dangerous drug. But in reality, they are a very proud, highly civilised and developed nation. You never see a single policeman, let alone a fight in any of the notorious nighttime Tokyo party and ‘Yakuzu’ districts of Shinjuku, Shibuya and Rappongi. It’s an attractive and entertaining place to be.
Imagine having complete ease of access to alcohol in Perth and taking all police out of Northbridge, Fremantle etc, how would people react? Our immediate thoughts are that complete chaos would break out. But what if it resulted in something similar to what we see in Japan? People may suddenly employ a sense of personal responsibility, of how they as an individual need to hold up their end of the community. It’s just a thought, considering a city of 35 million is doing exactly that, but not a suggestion.
Another perspective in the case of these jolly Japanese drinkers is that they’ve created an urban environment that encourages people to gather, interact, connect and recreate. A diversity of venue sizes and uses gives people more options and makes for innovative new businesses to experiment with new ideas, giving the streets a buzz of evolving and ongoing spontaneous entertainment. The people are being entertained. They have no need to be violent. The young have no need to binge with a world of fun in front of them, in combination with the social pressure of personal responsibility (maybe not at the corporate level, we should also note the contradiction with their incredibly high suicide rate, where does this factor in? Just to contradict my argument :/).
The policies of Perth do not allow for this anarchic evolution of creative business and entertainment. Perth Fringe Festival, other festivals and some small venues have made an attempt to throw a punch at our monotonous streets and bring humanity back together to connect and recreate. But this effort to make for a more interesting urban environment is facing the obstacle of strict liquor regulations.
One particular example is the café/bar/restaurant/music venue that has been bold enough to employ me, Xwray, in Fremantle. It’s a place where local politicians, councillors, businessmen, students etc all come to work, study, network, socialise, discuss dangerous ideas, gossip, or just think, over a drink. It can be said that many of the decisions that are shaping Fremantle have been discussed in this café over a drink. It’s a local, comfortable place to connect that also offers local musicians a chance to showcase their stuff. It’s a community asset that the mayor of Fremantle, when reapplying for our Extended Trading Permit (to serve alcohol without food), wrote a letter saying that Fremantle council support the venue and wish for more venues like Xwray to emerge in Fremantle.
It came as quite a shock, and as a personal insult when we received a letter from the Police Commissioner of Perth saying that he intervened with our license submission, due to his belief that the venue will be detrimental to the community if service of alcohol became more liberal. The letter assumes that alcohol related problems are only because of the alcohol itself and that limiting its availability will somehow encourage people to stop wanting the stuff. As if we haven’t yet realised that it’s bad for us.
We must keep in mind that the commissioner has every intention of making for a better society. I’m just disagreeing with his method of going about it.
When you look at it, the police locate themselves in dangerous nightlife areas where alcohol abuse is common. They never patrol small places such as Xwray. They have a completely warped perception of the diversity of alcohol service in venues around Perth.
We need to show that there is a culture of responsible alcohol consumption in Perth, and that bingeing reflects on a society that has been disconnected from its own community. With our fortress housing in disconnected suburbs, our cars that shut off any sort of human public connection, and our exclusive, glassed off workplaces it feels like this community connection is being lost. Places like Xwray strengthen the local community, it’s a place where people know they can go and see familiar faces or catch some local music. More places such as this will build stronger communities and offer less opportunity for alcohol-fuelled problems. We need a diversity of options for a diversity of interests among a now very diverse city of people!
So, these laws that blanket the diverse possibilities for small venues, are they encouraging a society that values humanity, similar to the laws that have previously liberated marginalised groups? Or are they not paying due regard to the intangible elements that forge a community asset, such as Xwray. I believe in a system that gives the power to the local council and the community to judge whether or not a venue contributes to the social fabric of their home. People can be trusted, as the last thing we want is an unsafe community! The laws are based on an irrational fear that the community can’t look after themselves without a strong willed parent. It must be hard for the commissioner having to look after the welfare of 1.7 million people, I definitely don’t want that many children to worry about! Let’s create our own future based on moral standings in active communities that keep alcohol in check through a sense of personal responsibility. Because at the moment, we are a bunch of kids that are reacting to our over protective parents!
What are your thoughts? Hit me up y’all.