There's been a lot of buzz going on lately about the proposed changes to the drunk-driving laws in Alberta. The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, the main foodservice industry lobbyist in this country, has been feverishly passing around a petition and releasing statements urging the government to punish the "serious" offenders as opposed to the "law-abiding citizens" who have a drink OR TWO with dinner then get behind the wheel.
Many of my colleagues in the restaurant industry have signed the petition, and it's been passed along to me by several people that I respect. The thing is, I didn't sign it.
The CRFA's position on drinking and driving is the most recent of many instances where my industry's stance on public policy has made me cringe. They were the loudest voice of opposition at every step along the road to eliminating smoking in public places. They are the first to oppose minimum wage increases and groan about the woes of food labelling and health legislation.
On the one hand, I get it. I really do. Running restaurants is really hard, and they don't rake in the fat stacks that many people think they do. There is a legitimate risk that some businesses who depend on strong liquor sales could be hurt or even go out of business. Um, but on the flip-side, people DIE from drinking and driving.
Let's be honest. We all know that you can feel the effects of alcohol before you hit point-8. By that time you are DRUNK. People at point-8 should never be behind the wheel, but is it really such a bad thing to change the conversation from "am I sober enough to drive?" to "I'm driving so I'll stay sober"?
Having been in BC when their similar liquor laws went into effect, I witnessed the general panic that the new laws created. Liquor sales DID drop. Restaurants DID have to change. I'm sure there were some nail-biting moments, even some businesses that weren't in a position to weather the storm.
At first, most of the people I knew were hesitant to consume even a sip if they were driving. It spurred discussion and debate over the dinner table, with people actively contemplating what it means to drink and drive and the role of lawmakers in society. Honestly, I thought it was great.
Over the next six months, the public calmed down. The people I knew were reassured that their province hadn't turned into a police state, and felt comfortable enough to have a beer with dinner again. At the same time, they were more likely to make transportation plans if they were going out to consume in any significant quantity. Oh yeah, and 40% fewer people were killed by drunk drivers.
Seriously...the internet informed me tonight that a 90-pound person can have one serving of alcohol (like a glass of wine) and be below 0.05BAC within an hour of consumption. An average-sized person can enjoy the two glasses that the CRFA recommends with a meal and be under that level by the time they've paid the bill. This law doesn't threaten your ability to go out for dinner, it threatens your ability to go out drinking and drive home.
As a former and future restaurant owner I KNOW that anything that threatens your sales is scary, but as a pedestrian/cyclist/motorist and human being who shares the road with others, I really don't mind. Issues come up constantly and this new legislation is just one of the twists offered by the rollercoaster ride called owning a restaurant. If anything, steps like this one move our industry forward and clean up some of the problems it faces.
If I were asked for my two-cents I'd pass on the same advice I've been giving out for years: drink less, but better!