Alcohol-fuelled violence – I’m not so sure.

I just Googled the phrase “alcohol-fuelled violence” and got 360,000 results – yep 360,000.

I’ve been truly gobsmacked as much by the very acts that have been perpetrated in Sydney as the hysteria and poor nomenclature used to describe them. Because unless I am out of my head on some sort of weird psychedelic myself, these acts are not merely alcohol-fuelled, they are fuelled by the EPIDEMIC in Sydney of amphetamines, uppers and steroids.

The fact is that NO-ONE can go on an eight hour drinking binge and be capable of throwing much of a punch. They are more at risk of falling in front of a cab, spewing in the very same vehicle or walking into a wall. Acts of serious and consequential violence committed by people in the vast majority of these recent cases are thanks to the dual mechanisms of plenty of booze and a few “bumps” of whatever choice of drug keeps the perpetrator going longer. The sheer intensity of the recent violence is proof enough to this untrained eye that there is a lot more than bourbon and beer fuelling the fights. I am not making light of anything, but let’s be honest, fights fuelled exclusively by booze tend to be as comedic as they are consequential. Punches fly everywhere and rarely hit a target. When they do, of course it’s a tragedy. But I just don’t reckon that’s what I’m seeing right now.

It might be crystal meth or ice – if you think this insidious drug is strictly the domain of bikers and “westies” you’d be wrong – it is all over the inner city. Then throw in a few Red Bulls, a couple of lines of coke if you’re fancy, maybe a key of speed or some GHB – anything to keep you at the bar feeling good. These drugs are EVERYWHERE. Ask your kids.

If you are a body builder, chances are you’re already on the steroids and they can make you plenty angry with a little bit of weekend help from your recreational drug of choice.

Look where this is happening. Where bars and pubs have been for the history of the city – but today where drug dealers and crooks reign supreme.
I just don’t understand why alcohol is seen by the vast majority of people as the sole problem here.

Of course I am compromised – I make wine and gin, I promote beer and all manner of drinks and just like EVERY SINGLE other purveyor of booze I want, in fact now more than ever, I NEED, people to consume my drinks as they always have – with some sense of personal responsibility. The vast majority of publicans, club owners and bar operators feel exactly the same.

We aren’t drinking more booze than we did a decade ago. More people, in fact, are drinking less but better. That’s a good thing. At least for those of us who think a moderate, and maybe occasional semi-binge, drink is OK for both us and society.

We love small bars and we adore a civilized drinking culture. I’m OK with these new laws as proposed by Barry O’Farrell today, not because I want to leave bars at 1.30am (which as a 45 year old is past my bedtime anyway) but because Sydney is NOT a civilized place to take a drink late at night. It’s NOT Seville or Rome. It’s a city riddled with a really dreadful drug sub-culture – the cops know this, the politicians know this and it’s no surprise that the recent spate of gun crime, which is ALWAYS related to the drug trade, is happening at exactly the same time as this epidemic of drug and alcohol fuelled violence.

It’s harder to crack the drug dealing code than it is to close pubs early. It’s easier to police the streets of the Rocks than it is to bust organised, trans-continental crime. In other words, it’s easier to be seen doing something than working behind the scenes trying to catch the real criminals. I get it.

Licensees who allow drugs to be dealt on or around their premises should be stripped of the privilege of having a licence and thrown in jail with their dealer mates. Those who don’t control the consumption on their premises should likewise face serious punishment. The fact is, a rogue publican loves a few amphetamines hanging around the pub. It means his punters stay longer and drink more. And then they go out and belt someone. It’s a bloody tragedy. But it’s not all the fault of booze.

46 thoughts on “Alcohol-fuelled violence – I’m not so sure.

  1. Hello there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my facebook group?
    There’s a lot of folks that I think would really enjoy your content.
    Please let me know. Thanks

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  3. So with no evidence you go ahead and blame drugs. You don’t even know which drugs… just that it isn’t alcohol.

    Reports from both police and paramedics tell us that alcohol abuse causes most of their work. That’s billions of dollars wasted on alcohol abuse.

    It’s a simple equation, reduce the hours that alcohol is sold and imbibed and you reduce the violence.

    If alcohol wasn’t the drug of choice for journalists and politicians it would have been banned 60 years ago. We have the ultimate hypocrisy of a drug like cannabis banned and yet it hasn’t caused one death and no violence and yet the carnage from alcohol abuse continues on with a subtle nod from you and your other hangers-on.

  4. Stuart
    Right over the target. No idiotic tax on Amphetamines either, maybe the law scribes should look that, seems to be the best way to close down and wreck an industry.
    Boz

  5. Hi Mate,
    Quinny here, not much to add but here here. When you get a chance can you email me your contact details. Got a project that may interest you.

  6. I agree with the sentiments. Alcohol shouldn’t be held solely to blame though it obviously has an effect.
    A couple of FACTS (Source ABS) that I think are relevant. The highest average level of consumption of alcohol recorded in Australia was in 1974-75, a total of 13.09 Litres of Alcohol (LALs to the trade) per person over the age of 15 (how they calculate it). (IE if you drink 100 litres of beer that is 5% alc/vol, you consume 5 Lals).
    Now think about the relaxation in restrictions towards alcohol consumption since then, especially trading hours. The latest figures, to 2011-12, are 10.05 LALS. That is a DECLINE of 23.2% !
    The mix is interesting as well – in terms of alcohol, in 74-5 the split was beer (70 %) wine (17 %) spirits (13 %). In 2011-12 it was beer (41 %) wine (38 %) spirits(19 %).

  7. Agree with some of your comments, it isn’t the safe environment of the bars where much of the reported violence has occurred. Being out at 1-4am in the morning on the streets with large congregations will have some form of effect. A solution needs to be organised with transport to move people on once they exit a bar. I prefer to call it late night violence as it could be fueled by alcohol, drugs, tiredness, a bad night and a range of other factors.

    Anyway as long as you have one side blaming alcohol and the largest outcry against the blame of alcohol coming from the alcohol industry there will be never be a reasonable solution. We live in a cynical society and people form views as to why someone may defend a position.

    Also the hyphen in your search reduces your results, not sure if you tried googling more popular variations. Remove the hyphen and try searching for the exact phrase “alcohol fuelled violence” and it brings up about 1,800,000 articles plus the other spelling of fuelled brings up another 200,000 to add to your hyphen search of 300,000.

  8. Good blog, I’m a fit 58 year old. In the 70’s & 80’s I was regularly appointed to accompany my corporate peers around the Cross etc when they visited from interstate. Trained in martial arts I looked after the many who had too many and butted heads or egos around the bars. Nothing really got past wild swings and a laugh or joke most often resolved many nasty situations. Last year, after many years, I visited the Marble Bar with my wife. We had to wait outside for about 30 mins .I said to my wife this was scary. She didn’t notice but with a little training I recognised the pumped up body language from within the queue, walking past and with the many security guards. Serious checking each other out and deliberate walking (and returning) within the other group’s space. lots of muscles – not sure about how much strength.
    In short these guys are not respectful martial artists but are sand castle kickers. They are not fed just by alcohol but by something else that is far more combustible and dangerous.

  9. Absolutely correct. Got out of running pubs in 2005. The booze wasn’t getting stronger. The idiots on the gear were.

  10. Well, hendo on, I disagree. After being in the industry for 15 years I can confidently say that “The piss”, as you so eloquently termed it, does not only make people “aggro”. It can also make them happy. How many fights have I witnessed in restaurants after a group of men have had 15 standard drinks each? None. It’s about personality types, egos and failure to accept reality. Drugs and alcohol both affect one’s mind, that is why people consume them…. for escape. It’s difficult for one to think violent unless they are already wired that way. I’ve seen smokers suffering from withdrawal and some need to go and punch a bin completely sober. Again, alcohol is not the only drug available out there which people react to. So, considering the recently media coverage of particular nasty incidences which occurred at Kings Cross, aka, ” the place you can get anything you want” (aledgedly), both occurred before 21:00…. what are the chances of it being solely alcohol related? I say low. Enough of this….
    Stuart, I respect your opinion and excellent use of the English language. I’d like to work for you.

  11. I agree that the excesses of a Nanny state are almost always an imposition, with the exception of seatbelts & RBT, and maybe a few others.
    I agree that raising the awareness of personal responsibility is first & foremost the single biggest factor in stemming the flow of random violence.
    I also agree from speaking to mates in the hospitality industry that the drugs have made things different now to when we were treading the boards of the Coogee Bay in the 90’s.
    Then I see the coalition of police & health workers queuing up to advocate for these laws, and these poor buggers are the ones who have to face the direct consequences of pissed idiots.
    And I’ve gotta say, that does it for me.
    Mark.

  12. Well said Stu, as usual. The one thing I would add which I have observed over my ten years in the booze industry is that there seems to be a lack of education (or perhaps common sense) when it comes to drinking, especially amongst the 18-25s. When my friends and I were 18-ish we would have a few too many vodka-sodas and then have ONE vodka-red bull – usually with a can of Red Bull between 2 people – to perk up a bit. These ‘young adults’ are now out drinking 5, 6, 7, sometimes more of these things with double shots and full cans of Red Bull. This mixture of alcohol, sugar and caffeine combined with the astounding availability of cheap drugs is a recipe for disaster. I have said it time and time again, it is unfair for law-abiding business owners and drinkers to be penalised for the actions of a few idiots, who are either taking something with their alcohol, or are of a personality type that shouldn’t be drinking at all. There is also a culture of vanity that needs to be addressed in Sydney. These days the number of people who are in to Mixed Martial Arts, boxing, cage fighting etc is unprecedented. I could go on, but I think you get my point. Blaming booze and booze only is naïve, misguided and quite frankly just lazy.

  13. Nice one. Totally agree. May I add one other point though. I am not a big fan of corporal punishment but is it just me that thinks this has a link with when the cane was taken out of school punishment. When I went to school you knew that there were consequences for your actions. We are now seeing the flow on effects of kids who were not tought these basic rules. I see constantly young men and woman stand toe to toe with police argueing and abusing them. (And without sounding like and old granpa, 46 years young here) in my day there was no way you would answer a police officer back. It comes down to respect. Respect for each other, people doing their job and respect for the law. Something I dont think alot of the people we are seeing on the news have at the moment

  14. Stuart, long time no speak from an old school mate. I’m compromised too, my only two full time jobs as an adult have been working in a bottle shop and working as an Anglican minister! My current location is Wollongong CBD – for past 9 years – so although like you my normal bed time is earlier, I have some familiarity with inner city.

    You are clearly right that the kind of illicit drug use you mention is a big contributor to the violence. It should be targeted. No argument with that from me. The solution is multi-factorial.

    But I think there’s a bit more work to do – interacting with the evidence base – before absolving the booze culture and the impact of trading hours and pre-loading etc.

    The Last Drinks coalition of police, ambos, nurses and doctors, all of who have front-line experience, certainly think the sort of measures directed at the excesses of the late night alcohol swilling culture will have an impact. I’d say those on the front-line are in a good position to comment knowledgeably.

    For example, I’d refer you to

    * comments by Dr Gordian Fulde, Director of Emergency Medicine at St Vincent’s (who has published research with BOSCAR on this here… http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2013/s3919913.htm

    *comments by Assoc. Prof Peter Miller (Deakin University, 5 year research interacting with the Newcastle solution), here… http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/ofarrell-blasted-for-stupid-comments-20140114-30t4h.html

    • Thanks for an excellent comment mate and some great reference points. I’m no expert, that should be clear enough, but we all need to worry together somehow to try to sort this mess out. Keep a straight bat mate

  15. Good post Stu – I think the whole community knows we have a problem, it’s the proposed solutions that divide us. Unfortunately this issue like so many other important ones has become politicised and evidence is ignored as opponents line up along ideological grounds. The biggest single change to drinking culture that has ever occurred in this country has been around drink driving. It was achieved through a combination of a long-term social marketing campaign and rigorous enforcement that dramatically increased the chances of getting caught. All this happened during a time when availability controls on alcohol were being relaxed.

  16. Unfortunately I believe your comments are true. Some ethical and social responsibility with regards to “glorifying” the drug trade through TV surely should be addressed as well. Drugs are everywhere, add to that alcohol and the individuals personality, well its a lethal combination.

  17. Stu, you have it so on point and really well put. Pity tax paying alcohol loving people aren’t taken as seriously as high toasted bogans performing one hit wonders. I stand for the push towards Melbourne’s answer and grant more small bar licenses to offer greater choice of watering hole and subsequent evolution of our after dark culture. After all, better behaviour breeds better behaviour.

  18. Once again Stu – nailed it. I don’t believe it to be at all coincidental that the perpetrators of these disgraceful acts are (unusually) physically big, with a history of violence.

  19. Hi Stuart,

    This is a fantastic article, and it rings VERY true. We in the alcohol trade only know too well that it is rarely alcohol alone that causes such devastating circumstances as we’ve seen in the media recently.

    Will you be posting this on social media, and would you mind if I posted it as well?

    Many thanks, Sharon

  20. Sorry Stu, I don’t buy any of that. You’re a booze supplier, so of course you wanna blame some other substance. Can you perhaps back up your rant re steroids etc with some stats / evidence? An empirical study of some sort? Anything? As far as I’m aware, in the latest high profile cases in KX where deaths have occurred, it was piss alone that the alleged perps were on. And you and I both know that even the sloppiest punch from a drunk can send someone to the concrete canvass with enough force to kill. The piss has made people aggro since Adam was a boy – let’s not try and pretend otherwise.

    • Thanks hendo. Im not absolving booze of all the blame and i don’t think I’ve been anything less than clear that im a booze purveyor and promoter. The fact is that the vast majority of Australians are drinking less than last decade and the one before it. The increase in binge drinking is being enabled by an ability to stay longer, drink more. In my mind(lacking empirical evidence but reckon it might exist if only anecdotally) that is helped along by any number of legal and illegal substances. Cheers mate

    • That Australians drink less tells us nothing really. Our work hours have increased significantly so that most of us don’t have the opportunity to drink as much during the week. The weekends, in many circles, are for binge drinking.
      Frankly I think the majority of us drink to excess and excuse our behaviour because we didn’t have a drink all week, or we’ll do Dry July, or some other rubbish. No one who drinks the equivalent of four days worth of alcohol units in one sitting wants to think their behaviour has anything in common with the the behaviour that leads to violence in the city.
      I lived in Potts Point a few years back. There were plenty of drunk idiots who very clearly not on ice and as evidenced by less than impressive physiques weren’t steroid users either. They weren’t all stumbling around singing a jolly tune. Quite a few got into vicious fights that resulted in the ambos taking at least one party to St Vincents.
      There should be more leading by example. If suburban parents didn’t knock back a few bottles of wine on a Friday night, their little brats might be less likely to grow up thinking that doing the same before heading in to the city was a great way to start the evening.

    • If piss has been making people agro since Adam was a boy, why are we only now having these violence problems? Being in the industry for 20 years you can take my word for it as evidence that people are drinking the same amount…but something has changed. Drugs, definitely yes….steroids, maybe (likely, I have just never seen it with my own eyes)…I think something else has changed though…and it is much harder to put a finger on…it is our psyche/culture. We live in a world where a bloodsport is the fastest growing sport in the world and “Bum Fights” is an acceptable form of entertainment. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to start blaming media, games, whatever or start censoring what we watch and what we do…I love UFC…although Bum Fights on the other hand I find abhorrent…but it is a sign that there is definitely a bigger problem here.

  21. I agree. drugs are everywhere. good post. the police are not to blame. its the dealers and the chemical drug culture…spot on mate..

  22. Makes me sad that our wonderful city now has to put up with this. I don’t wish to go to sleep at night wondering if my kids will make it home – just because they enjoy a good night out AND a few drinks! I had to put up with sharpies and skinheads when I was growing up – until society decided we didn’t need that sort of culture. Dare we do the same with this problem!!

  23. Good stuff Stu. A colleague who bought a nightclub in QLD was visited on the first day by two members of a local bikie club, who informed him that they ‘owned’ the rights to sell drugs in his club. There was no right of refusal. Well, there was, but with life threatening consequences…bottom line is we all know what is going on, but it seems too big a problem for the gov’t to deal with. Better still, why don’t we make a few TV series idolising drug dealers and crims…see where that might lead? Cheers

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