Bar owners must be responsible when they serve alcohol

The term "responsible drinking" is an oxymoron (New alliance to promote responsible drinking; April 17). The only way to be responsible about drinking is not to drink at all.

The harmful effects of alcohol are in the open for all to see.

Just take a stroll along Boat Quay, Clarke Quay or any nightspot, and you will see drunks by the roadside, vomiting or behaving in ways that they would not normally do.

Alcohol has been glamorised and is touted as something that relaxes a person after a hard day's work, or as an excellent beverage to accompany a meal.

However, many will agree it is a dance with death. I have seen far too many drinkers involved in dangerous behaviour and road accidents.

The Singapore Nightlife Business Association (SNBA) must not be a self-serving entity.

A voluntary accreditation scheme to raise standards among operators does nothing to stem the temptations of alcohol; it promotes it instead.

To give the association more bite, bar owners must be empowered by law to stop serving alcohol to those they deem inebriated.

Otherwise, customers who are already emboldened by alcohol would be (literally) up in arms if they think their money is being rejected.

Perhaps there should be a restriction on how many drinks a person can buy a night.

It is useless to train bar staff on what to do in a terrorist attack if, when an attack takes place, a packed roomful of people with impaired judgment and brains dulled by alcohol cannot stagger out in an orderly manner.

It is more likely that panic will ensue.

The SNBA must put its money where its mouth is and sponsor alcohol-cessation clinics. It must engage counsellors and station some of them inside their establishments to help patrons who are trying to quit.

Public awareness campaigns, similar to those by the National Council on Problem Gambling to rein in gambling, should be organised.

Since one-for-one prices, "happy hour" and fancy cocktails can be very tempting, and some people need help staying away from alcohol, perhaps legislation along the lines of the casino exclusion programme, could be enacted.

Bars serving alcohol make a lot of money. They can give back to society by financing such schemes.

In this way, they can become responsible bar owners, which makes more sense than expecting their customers to be responsible drinkers.

Michael Loh Toon Seng (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2017, with the headline 'Bar owners must be responsible when they serve alcohol'. Print Edition | Subscribe