Why Alberta’s new drunk driving rules might not affect your business
Last call for alcohol
by Alberta Venture Staff
With universities back in session and the summer holidays over, September is usually a good month for the hospitality industry. But this is no ordinary September: the government of Alberta’s new impaired driving legislation (Bill 26, which is among the stiffest in the country) comes into full force this month.
That could be bad news for the province’s hospitality industry, which is the fourth largest sector in Alberta and employs approximately 130,000 people. In B.C., a similar change to drinking and driving laws saw liquor sales for bars and restaurants drop by an estimated average of 21 per cent. It’s not surprising, then, that 84 per cent of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association’s (CRFA) Alberta members opposed Bill 26 in a November 2011 poll.
But Mark von Schellwitz, CRFA vice-president (Western Canada), says the fear and loathing may be unnecessary. He says the problem in B.C., where he is based, wasn’t so much the law as the lack of information that surrounded it, and his organization has worked with the Albertan government to get word out that people can still enjoy a drink after work if they do it responsibly. “We want to make sure that we’ve got an informed public and they don’t get scared the way they were here in British Columbia about what this actually means. If you were a responsible driver before and had a bottle of wine with dinner with your wife, there’s no need for you to change your habits.”
One of the most worrisome elements of the new legislation for bar and restaurant owners is the provision that those who present a blood alcohol level of between 0.05 and 0.08 will get hit with a licence suspension and, depending on whether it’s a first infraction or not, be sent for remedial education. So, what does it take to register a blood alcohol level of 0.05? It’s not an exact science, but suffice it to say that unless you’re particularly vulnerable to the drink or haven’t eaten anything all day, you can still go out for a beer or two with your buddies after work.
Been There, Survived That
This isn’t the first time the hospitality industry has had to adapt to government legislation. Here are just two of the more recent challenges it has had to meet.
January 2008 Smoking Ban
In January of 2007, bars across Alberta were required to butt out. But it wasn’t until 2008 that the province’s hospitality industry went completely smoke-free, after an extension granted to Calgary-area bingo halls and bars with separate smoking rooms expired.
August 2009 Minimum Drink Prices
In response to the growing level of alcohol-fuelled violence in the province’s bars and clubs, then-premier Ed Stelmach’s government introduced legislation that sought to reduce binge drinking by setting minimum drink prices, curtailing the length of happy hours and limiting the number of drinks people could buy after 1 a.m.
1969 Over the Limit
In Canada, the legal limit for blood alcohol content has been 0.08 since 1969, but studies have demonstrated that vision impairment and slowed braking reflexes begin at just 0.03, while steering and multi-tasking abilities are impaired at 0.04. As such, the Canadian Medical Association now recommends that the limit be changed to 0.05.