To the editor:
My wife and I are longtime residents of B.C., but we recently returned from an over three-year stay in Germany, where I taught at an international school. We lived in Hannover, a city of 500,000. There, the rules concerning alcohol are much different. They are, in a word, mature.
Alcohol (wine, beer, spirits) can be purchased at any grocery store in the city. Beer gardens are open (no fences, no restrictive signs) and entire families with children of any age are free to enter and to order.
Apparently, the powers that be have decided that the parents can order alcoholic drinks and food, while their children can order non-alcoholic drinks and food, and eat and drink side by side in a public place. Gee, that sounds just like being at home.
People can buy a beer and carry it on the streets or onto the tram and consume it in public.
Has this led to rampant alcoholism, wild parties in the street, and multiple fights? No. But then, Europeans have been making and drinking alcoholic beverages for a long time, long before local and provincial and national governments, brought up in a rich tradition of puritanism (note definition of a puritan: Someone who is deathly afraid that somebody somewhere is having fun), have been able to enact and enforce strict and unrealistic laws about where to buy and to consume any alcohol. (I should add that the German laws, as enforced rigorously by the German police, do not take drinking and driving lightly, as we did for so long in this province, and the overwhelming majority of Germans avoid mixing alcohol with driving for fear of hefty penalties.)
My wife and I are in favour of mature, sane liquor laws.
To those who say greater access to alcohol means greater consumption, we say that those who are determined to abuse alcohol have always found ways to do it, no matter how restrictive the laws.
To the consumers who like to purchase cold beer at a reasonable price, we say why should they have to drive to the U.S. to do this?
We realize that we are, in many ways, an immature society, and that the sudden loosening of regulations could lead to some problems. But as an educator, my solution to any such concern is always that education is the key. If people are given the appropriate information at the appropriate time to make the appropriate decisions, they will normally do that.
There will always be those who ignore information at their peril, but they will do so regardless of the regulations.
Must we continually penalize the large majority of responsible citizens because of the irresponsible minority with liquor laws designed to confound the immature along with all the rest of us?
We would like to think that British Columbia is finally ready to end its position as the oldest teenager in the world of alcohol. We would like to think that British Columbia is ready to look to Europe, a much older and wiser (in many ways) society for a blueprint for a new (old) attitude toward the sale and consumption of alcohol.
We think it is long past the time to treat British Columbians as though most of us are adult and can behave responsibly where alcohol is concerned.
Lee & Doris Karvonen,