Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Freo Quick Shot: A Creative Bureaucracy - Cheers to That!

Dean Cracknell is the author of this post. He is a Freo devotee dedicated to creating interesting, diverse places for people and is a guest contributor to The Fremantle Doctor blog. 

Dean can be followed on Twitter by checking out: @city_pragmatist

It is generally accepted that the beer barn (large pubs that cater for extra large numbers of binge drinking patrons) approach to managing our drinking habits has helped contribute to anti-social behaviour around Perth. This isn't a great situation when we're all working towards trying to create vibrant, liveable and welcoming places.

So is this approach changing? Unfortunately I don't think so, if the response by the State Government buraucracy is anything to go by. On this issue, the Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor, the Liquor Commission, the Health Department and WA Police seem to be all about harm minimisation. This tactic is often reflected in the objections to small bars by the Health Department and WA Police. In summary, the bureaucracy is effectively trying to maintain the status quo.

For me, the status quo doesn't appear to be working. Something needs to change and I feel that the most fundamental issue is to begin changing our drinking culture. A key component of this would be promoting small bars.

Small bars are intimate spaces. Compared to beer barns, they provide a different option for people looking to enjoy a relaxed drink. My wife, who has experienced her fair share of small bars, is adament that small bars are great because they are small. She maintains that it is much easier to be an idiot when you are an anonymous person in a large crowd in a beer barn. Conversely, the small space of a small bar acts as a natural regulator of people's behaviour as they are less anonymous. In this type of environment, being seen as someone who can't handle their booze isn't a good thing.

I was miffed when I read that the State Government had rejected the City of Fremantle’s request to permanently extend the relaxed liquor licensing laws, which proved a success during the world sailing championships last year. Fourteen Freo restaurants were licensed to serve alcohol without a meal during the championships and the sun kept on coming up. Kelp at the Kidogo was immensely popular and worked so well, so well that the world didn't come to an end. People actually enjoyed themselves. What a great opportunity to build on these successes.

I feel disappointed that those in the upper echelons of State Government bureaucracy seem incapable of thinking outside of the square and applying a degree of common sense to this issue. It can be assumed that they enjoy their fair share of trips to Melbourne and to Europe, so what happens to them on the return trip?

I'm equally enthused to see the City of Fremantle having a crack at getting these outdated restrictions amended. In the words of Mayor Brad Pettitt promoting a “more mature and international style of drinking” is essential in Freo (and Perth) becoming a vibrant city. To this end, my wife is happy to see that there are some small bars cropping up in and around Freo.

I firmly believe that reforming our drinking culture will require changes to our current restrictive laws. This will require the bureaucracy to start thinking more creatively. Small bars are part of the solution, not part of the problem.

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