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The Weather Network
Apr. 19, 2019 | Friday
Local News
New drinking and driving enforcement shouldn’t affect NOTL bars
Dawn (Jovie) Joki, owner of the Irish Harp Pub. (Jer Houghton/Niagara Now)

Local bars in Niagara-on-the-Lake are unaffected by new drinking and driving enforcement laws.

Sergeant Josh Klop of the Niagara Regional Police said officers can demand any lawfully-stopped driver provide a breath sample to test for alcohol without reasonable suspicion. To perform that check without reasonable cause, however, they need to have the device on hand.

Klop said it’s been rumoured that police can go into bars or restaurants and test anyone they believe to have driven under the influence.

“It’s been said that they can test their sobriety, and if they’re over the legal limit they’re going to get arrested for impaired driving,” Klop said, adding that the information has been misrepresented. “That’s what they’ve said but that’s completely wrong.”

Police still require reasonable cause to demand a breath sample within two hours of driving.

Klop said officers can’t just show up and request a sample of breath without cause after the driver has arrived at their destination.

“Police can’t just show up and say I need a sample of your breath. They need to have some kind of a reasonable expectation that they would have to provide a sample. A lot of times that’s going to be related to an accident.

“If someone’s on their way home and they’re in an accident and continue to take off, then let’s say they end up in a restaurant. Police can track that driver to the restaurant. Then yes, they can go in and say I believe that you were in an accident and you left the scene. They can demand a sample of their breath,” Klop said, adding that they won’t randomly check patron’s sobriety for no reason.

“They’re not just going to walk into any bar and grab people.”

Geoff Mangan, general manager of The Irish Harp Pub in NOTL, said the updated law won’t have an impact on the way they conduct business. While he said he isn’t sure police can come into the restaurant to enforce drinking and driving, it’s always been their policy to keep safety in the forefront.

“I don’t know the legality of that. It’s like saying they can prosecute someone for shoplifting before leaving the store. I do know myself and our establishment always promote responsible drinking.

We’ve always operated under the policy of responsible consumption and preventative service.”

Mangan said that supporting measures increasing public safety should be the stand of all local bars and restaurants.

“To only focus on profitability of the business would be a disservice,” he said, adding that protecting the safety of patrons is important. Service staff need to remain vigilant in utilizing their Smart Serve training.

“We have a big responsibility that way. We try to train the heck out of our service staff to be able to be aware of that. We want them to be able to come back, we don’t want to endanger them that way.”

Monique Landry, owner of the Old Winery Restaurant, said police have posted outside in the past, making customers uneasy.

“People are very unclear about how much they can drink and still drive. It all depends on your weight and how much you’ve had to eat. It’s difficult for the average person to be sure.”

As a venue that hosts many weddings, she said they take measures to make sure guests are within their limits and encourage alternate transportation home for those exceeding them.

Landry said there are always five or six cars in the parking lot Sunday morning. She encourages staff to make sure, if they are serving someone more than two drinks, that they’re not driving.

As for the new enforcement laws, she said that it’s not the worst thing that’s happened this year. It will slow down how much patrons are consuming, she said.

“You can’t really get around Niagara-on-the-Lake without a car.”

For bars and restaurants in the NOTL city centre, walking is an option, but for those situated further out it’s not as viable.

Customers walk over to The Old Winery Restaurant from Garrison Village in the summer, but without sidewalks she said it can be dangerous at night. Coming from downtown is a hike, especially in the winter.

Residents and visitors of NOTL looking to enjoy a few drinks and still make it home safely, without the fear of being stopped under the new enforcement laws, can take advantage of cab services in the area. Having a designated driver is always recommended.

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