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St Pat's punters peeved

Tuesday, 31st March, 2009

Some patrons have voiced criticism of the St Patrick's race meeting, despite organisers' claims of a resounding success. Club officials classed the restriction on full strength beer and spirits a success, claiming not one complaint was received by committee members. However, on the ground punters were not so sure, complaining that entry cost, parking and the price of beer was too high. The Club charged up to $25 for pre-paid membership to the races, with racegoers entering on the day paying $18. Those who drove their vehicle paid $5 to park, while drinkers paid $5 for a low strength beer.

St Pat's Race Club secretary/manager Cheryl Krutli was unapologetic. "People came up to me saying it was great," Mrs Krutli said. "There was not a single complaint made to any committee member. "Police licensing are impressed with the operations of the day and the management of the committee of the licensing issues." Of the selection of low strength beers and spirits on offer, club manager/secretary Cheryl Krutli said it had made no difference to racegoers. "That appears not to affect anyone's enjoyment of the day."

But beer drinkers thought differently. "Too expensive, too warm and too weak," said one drinker of his selection. Some racegoers said the selection of spirits forced them to choose wine instead, saying it allowed them to get just as drunk and was cheaper. Drinkers, especially women, wanted to know why they had to pay $1.00 for each plastic wine glass they required, described it as "outrageous." But Mrs Krutli said placing a cost on plastic glasses was done elsewhere and was more economical. "We did a survey of other events in other states and to encourage people to re-use their glasses we determined that it was common practice to pay for their glass at the beginning of the day," she said.

"It's more cost effective and better for the environment." However, four large regional racing events in four states have said they do not charge for plastic cups or parking. The world's biggest picnic race day, the Oakbank races in South Australia, which attracts 100,000 people over two days, said patrons could drink what they wished, including bringing their own alcohol to the course. Entry was $20, while parking and plastic glasses were free. The Queensland city of Toowoomba, which hosted the annual Weetwood Cup attracting around 8,000 people, and all other race meetings held by the Toowoomba Turf Club, said patrons could enter for $10, park free and not be charged for any bar-related consumables.

The Mildura Racing Club said their big race days in May and November did not have any alcohol restrictions, nor did they change for parking. Entry was between $12 and $15, with plastic glasses free. The Dubbo Turf Club charged $15 entry on their biggest days, with parking and plastic glasses free. They sold low strength beers for $3.50, while their mid strength beers was $4.00. Two of the clubs said they had restrictions on alcohol sales, with the Queensland club saying it was their own decision, while in Dubbo the club said the reduced strength alcohol sales had been forced onto them by liquor licensing.

The SA and Victorian clubs said patrons could chose drink what they wanted but were encouraged to drink in moderation.

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