What If Montreal Bars And Clubs Breathalyzed You Before Entering?

Photo cred - Jazmin Million

For most Montrealers, pre-drinking is just as much a part of the nightlife experience as being at whatever bar or club you eventually go to. Before you head out to party on the Main or wherever else you find yourself, it’s always fun to enjoy a few low-key shots or beers with friends prior to having to face the high energy and higher prices of clubs around the city.

Unfortunately, in London, local police are attempting to take away customers’ right to show up to a club already drunk. A recently launched pilot project, known as “Operation Equinox,” allows bouncers to breathalyze club goers before they allow them into venues around the city. The initiative follows a rise in violence as high as 39% in some boroughs, which some officers have linked to problems of alcohol consumption. Reduce drinking, the logic of the project goes, and you’ll cut down on violence.

While this makes sense in theory, it could have a terrible effect on nightlife in practice, particularly in a city with a nightlife scene as vibrant as Montreal’s. Despite the undue restrictions placed upon it, our city continues to be among the premiere places for nightlife in North America, and it doesn’t make any sense to put further measures in place that would keep it from recognizing its potential.

From the perspective of either a bar owner or a patron, the initiative would ultimately be self-defeating. People in the nightlife business might salivate at the prospect of being able to force their customers to buy their more drinks in their bars, but it would have the unfortunate affect of limiting their overall range of clientele, thus being detrimental to their ability to draw people in. Bars’ ability to generate revenue comes in part from a network effect, where having more customers exponentially increases the size of their crowds, and preventing people from coming in and spending money (who’d otherwise be desirable customers) limits that ability. Furthermore, people spend money more readily once they’ve had a few drinks, and forcing them to be sober when they enter a bar would delay the time at which they reach such a point.

As bad as it would be for a bar owner, it hardly needs to be said that an initiative such as “Operation Equinox” would zap much of the fun out of nightlife for the many Montrealers active in the city’s thriving nightlife scene. As I stated at the beginning, pre-drinking is an important ritual for much of the city. However, beyond that, we often don’t want to limit ourselves to spending the night at just one place: part of the fun of partying in Montreal is being able to stumble along a street like St. Laurent and hit up a bunch of different spots along the way. Bar hopping is an excellent way to spend an evening, and “Operation Equinox” makes it damn near impossible.

Beyond that, breathalyzing patrons takes the responsibility for nightclub safety away from where it belongs: in the hands of bouncers and other security professionals. These people are paid to crack drown on customers who are behaving irresponsibly, regardless of where they’ve bought their alcohol (and regardless of whether or not it's alcohol that’s making them act as such). Even if pre-drinking and bar hopping were outlawed in Montreal, there’d inevitably still be people getting too drunk at nightclubs, and security guards would be just as responsible for removing them as they are now.

In short, rather than solving problems, preventing Montrealers from entering bars and clubs while drunk wouldn’t deal with any of the real issues facing nightlife, and it’d lead to a worse experience for industry professionals and customers alike. To be sure, people getting too drunk and making bad decisions shouldn’t be encouraged, but banning pre-drinking doesn’t really address safety issues. Bar owners and patrons want more people out and about, and stopping them from being able to act as they wish before they get to venues would only hurt the interests of both parties. Let’s keep Montreal nightlife as great as it is by allowing the city to keep on pre-drinking. Bottoms up.

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