.08 to .05?


by Trevor Greenway on March 25, 2010

Jeff Hardill, co-owner of Kaffe 1870 does see some positives of the proposed change

Jeff Hardill, co-owner of Kaffe 1870 does see some positives of the proposed change

Restaurateurs in Wakefield, Quebec fear new alcohol limit will ‘screw everything up’

It’s a special night. You grab your hubby and you’re off for a fancy meal of lamb, some local greens and a lovely bottle of red.

You’re responsible: only two drinks over two hours and you are fine to drive… or are you?

Many restaurant patrons could face “blowing over” if the province goes through with its plans to move the blood-alcohol limit from .08 per cent to .05 per cent. The proposed change leaves some Gatineau Hills restaurant and bar owners with a queasy feeling in their stomach.

Che Chartrand, owner of Chez Eric in Wakefield said the proposed change will “screw everything up” for his business and many others in the village. Because his establishment makes its money on beverages and not food, he will be forced to make some changes to the menu.

“If people actually pay attention to (the blood-alcohol limit), it will raise my prices on food and on my alcohol. I really feel for the diners who will have to pay more.”

Chartrand said the changes will especially affect Wakefield restaurants, as the village is a destination spot for urbanites who want to get out of the city for the night. He said that 80 per cent of his business comes from Ottawa and that with the new limit, more and more people may just decide to either stay home with a bottle of wine or go somewhere close so they have the option of taking a cab home.

Breathalyzer tests could be administered at random in the future

Breathalyzer tests could be administered at random in the future

It’s the diners rather than the bar goers who will pay the price of the new limit, said Chartrand. Ninety per cent of diners drink responsibly and enjoy pairing a wine with a meal. It’s the “crazy ones who have been drinking since noon” who are killing people on the roads.

But bar owner Jeff Hardill, co-owner of Wakefield’s Kaffe 1870, does see some advantages to the limit change.

“I think anything that makes the road safer to drive on is a good thing. You can’t serve a drink to someone who is dead.”

The lower limit may force people to think ahead more and plan for a designated driver or being prepared to crash on a friend’s couch.

Restaurants are preparing to fight the changes. According to Dominique Tremblay, Spokesperson for the Association des restaurateurs du Québec (ARQ), the organization is against the proposed change, as it would deter people from dining at restaurants in general.

“We are afraid of losing alcohol sales in the industry,” said Tremblay. “In the end, people are just going to stay at home with a bottle of wine.”

MRC des Collines Spokesperson Martin Fournel is hoping the new changes are passed, agreeing with Hardill that the new limit would force patrons to think ahead and plan for a safe ride home. He said the change will have a direct impact on Gatineau Hills residents, as most people work in the city and need their vehicles everyday.

Fournel added that it’s hard to tell what the difference between .08 and .05 is in terms of alcohol consumption. He said it all depends on the person and how much they weigh, how much they ate and how much they slept. Every person is different.

Random road stops

On top of possible lowered blood alcohol limits in Quebec, the federal government is also considering to implement random breathalyzer tests across the country’s roads to nab even more drunk drivers. The random tests would give police officers the right to administer sobriety tests on random drivers, instead of only on drivers suspected of drunk driving, which is what the current legislature states. The justice department referred to stats from Australia, New Zealand and Ireland, where drunk driving fatalities decreased by as much as 36 per cent after it was implemented.
The government is open to input on the changes until April 30.