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Mid-strength event

Tuesday, 24th March, 2009

Neither full strength beer nor spirits will be available at Saturday's St Pat's race meeting, but champagne and wine will still be served. Only mid-strength and light beer will be on offer, and only pre-mixed spirits with an alcohol content of four per cent or lower. Alcohol cannot be brought into the racecourse. The restrictions will be set out in the event's liquor licence, which is expected to be granted by the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR) in the next few days. The move to a 'mid-strength event' was requested by local police with the backing of the St Pat's Race Club.

It was approved by OLGR after discussions that started after last year's event. Local Police Superintendent, Ian Dickson, said the change had been partly driven by all three parties. While he had not seen the final conditions, he said he had "fully supported and was very keen" to make the move to mid-strength. Supt Dickson said there was no restriction on the sale of wine because that had not been requested.

Cheryl Krutli, secretary of the St Patrick's Race Club, said full strength wine had been "permitted by the licencing department", but lower strength wine would be available. With alcopops - sweet, high-alcohol drinks - off the menu, Mrs Krutli said frozen cocktails with an alcohol content of 3.5 per cent would be served.

"We are happy to comply with the conditions if it means less trouble and a better outcome for everyone," she said. She said there had been extensive consultation between the club and police, as well as with alcohol suppliers, but not with racegoers. Supt Dickson said the change to mid-strength events was not limited to Broken Hill and was part of a wider cultural change. "Nationally, Statewide and in Broken Hill, the attitude towards binge-drinking, domestic violence and anti-social behaviour is changing," he said.

"In my view, alcohol-related violence is the most significant criminal issue in Broken Hill." In February, Supt Dickson said the city recorded 63 assaults, with 51 related to alcohol use through either the victim or offender. He said that made clear the link between alcohol and violence."Massive social events encourage many members of the community to come together and have a good time. For some it is an opportunity to drink vast amounts of alcohol," he said. This had a heavy fallout on the community, Supt Dickson said, through drink driving, violence and other anti-social behaviour.

The aim of a mid-strength event is that if a person drinks at their normal rate, but with weaker beer, they will be as badly affected. "People can have an enjoyable day without full strength beer," said Supt Dickson. He said it was not about taking away people's right to choose, and that St Pat's was "not a beer drinking day". "That is, it's not there for the consumption of a lot of alcohol," he said. He acknowledged it was the role of the police to keep the peace, but said that did not invalidate the strategy. "As with any strategy the most important part is prevention, not cure," he said. "If you create an event where people are filled with alcohol and then tell the police force to fix it, then there's a problem."

Wine will not be restricted because beer and spirits were identified as the drink of choice for those most prone to antisocial behaviour. Supt Dickson acknowledge that if someone was determined to get drunk they could drink wine. "If someone is acting inappropriately then police will deal with them," he said. "There will be people in the community that might object to this happening to landmark events. The police's objectives is for a safe and enjoyable event and to make sure people have a better time." The ban on full-strength beer does not apply to races in Sydney.

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