Let's admit it: Halifax has a drinking problem.
No, I'm not jumping on the anti-booze bandwagon. Far from it. I like drinking, I like bars and, in fact, if you look around these few pages, you'll see that The Coast, my employer, has no qualms about advertising bars.
The problem isn't drinking or drinking establishements. The problem is the way this town goes about its alcohol consumption.
See, drinking is supposed to be an adult activity. By that, I mean it can be a cultured pleasure, a vehicle for community, friendship, artistic appreciation and more.
But somewhere along the way, some locals lost track of the ideal and decided drinking was merely an excuse for moronic behaviour. I mean, whatever else the Christmas Eve Dome dust-em-up was, it was at heart a bunch of stupid people doing stupid things. To them I say: Knock it off, already! We're trying to run a classy joint here. Have fun, let loose and enjoy yourself, but can you contain it a bit this side of total mayhem, please?
It doesn't help that government regulation of bars seems designed to cultivate trouble. Case in point: it's damn near impossible to open a neighbourhood pub in Halifax. We should have more, not fewer, bars—a lot of establishments spread out across the city, small places conducive to neighbourly gathering within walking distance to people's houses. In their absence, we've got gigantic drinking malls, so large that idiotic and unsocial behaviour builds to a critical mass and starts to feed on itself.
Here's as a good a place as any to point out that tossing into the mix an extra-judicial group that answers to no one and is committed to using physical force is a recipe for even greater disaster. The police called to the Dome "probably would have welcomed people in red berets, cowboy hats, pink shower caps, anybody who would have covered their backs," Guardian Angel founder Curtis Sliwa told local media, but the very last thing anyone needs is a bunch of cowboys playing vigilante in our streets.
As for the cops, I have sympathy for the near-impossible situation they find themselves in when called to a scene after trouble has broken out. But that's the nature of the beast they've been handed. No one wants violence, but neither should we legitimize the use of tactics that intrude on everyone's civil liberties, which gets the short stick in any discussion involving "safety." This week Dome management agreed to install video cameras with a direct internet link to the police station, however dirty drunks don't excuse Big Brother.
In short, everyone needs to just grow up. Now more than ever, we need maturity from drinkers, wisdom from policy makers and restraint from police, but all of that seems in short supply.
It'll drive a person to drink.