The Calgary Journal
The Calgary Journal

Bartender values new impaired driving laws over personal profit, even if at a loss

thumb beerinpubPaying the bills has been a challenge for Ryan McEathron, 27. After travelling abroad for eight months, McEathron, went back to his old job as a bartender at Dickens Pub in Calgary with $8,000 worth of debt hanging over his head.

"Just getting back to Canada was expensive, but then I had to get a new cellphone, sort out my car insurance and get some maintenance work done on my car that I didn't know needed to be done," he said.

He says money has been slow at the bar, enough so that he took on a second job to help supplement his income and spent his first three months back in Calgary living with his parents.

 New drunk-driving law changes:

  •  Penalties for first time drivers who have a blood-alcohol level between 0.05 and 0.08, such as a three-day licence suspension and impounding of vehicle on a first offence
  • Second offences would see a 15 day licence suspension, a seven day vehicle seizure and a mandatory education course
  • A third offence would be penalized with a 30 day licence suspension
  •  Repeat offenders can see a seven day licence suspension
  • There would also be stiffer penalties for individuals who have a blood-alcohol level above 0.08, such as the impounding of a vehicle until the charges are resolved in court

McEathron adds that money flows even slower post-Christmas in the bar industry, as New Year's resolutions and the arrival of credit card bills keep people from going out.

"There is a lull in January but good promotion and events can help offset that."

You would think that McEathron would be worried about changes to Alberta's impaired driving laws.

"It doesn't bother me. At first, when I first heard about the laws, I was undecided. But then I heard that other laws have had a positive effect on stopping drinking and driving and I had to support it," he said.

Bill 26, which was passed Dec. 7, allows authorities to suspend a license for three days and impound a vehicle on a first offence if a driver has a blood-alcohol level above 0.05 and is expected to take effect later this year.

It could also mean less money if not as many people are there to pay tips.

beerinpubA recent survey from the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association saw 82 per cent of Alberta licensees as being opposed to the new drunk driving legislation.
Photo courtesy of: stock.xchng

The new legislation has been met with opposition from restaurant and bar owners. A recent survey from the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association saw 82 per cent of Alberta licensees as being opposed to the new legislation.

"It's kind of sad that some places are like that, and place making money over the personal safety of their customers," said McEathron.

"I'm big on personal freedoms up to the point where you're putting other people's lives at risk. Unfortunately, a lot of bar staff out there are unethical."

McEathron recounted an incident at another bar he used to work at. When he had attempted to cut off some regulars who had been drinking too much, he was reprimanded by a manager.

"I was told, 'That's just the way things are.' And I couldn't work there anymore. As a bartender, I have a legal responsibility to make sure I'm not over-serving people."

In an interview with CBC News, Mark von Schellwitz, Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association vice-president pointed out that business has dropped in B.C. where similar legislation was recently passed.

The B.C. laws "really scared a lot of customers," he said.

McEathron hasn't seen a huge difference in customers' drinking habits but he thinks that will change once the laws actually come into effect, with potentially dangerous consequences.

"I think people may try to monitor their drinking a little more and that would make them more confident to get behind the wheel."

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