You Choose To Booze

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

January 15, 2009 Ed Cartoon

The recent decision by the Ontario Provincial Police to press charges against numerous employees at the Lake Joseph Club opens up a floodgate of questions regarding Ontario’s current laws on liquor consumption.

The Muskoka-area golf course was where Tyler Mulcahy, Nastasia Inez Elzinga, Kourosh Totonchian and Cory Mintz spent their last hours drinking before Mulcahy got into a car â€" causing a fatal crash that killed all but Elzinga.

Mulcahy’s father has spent his time since the crash campaigning for a change in Ontario’s laws for young drivers and was instrumental in the introduction of new legislation last fall.

While liquor law is fairly strict in its sentencing guidelines â€" employees found guilty could face a fine up to $100,000 or a year in jail and the corporation could stand to lose its liquor licence and up to $250,000 â€" it is up to the courts to decide whether the defendants are actually guilty.

But even if the law has already established the precedent, one question still seems debatable. Is an individual responsible for the consequences of their alcohol consumption? How much of a duty of care does a business have?

From the outset it is easy to sympathize with the employees of the golf club. After all, a business is created to make money and does its best to instill that value into its workers. Although Smart Serve courses attempt to educate bar employees, it’s not always so easy in the real world.

In actuality it can be quite difficult in a busy environment to recognize both how intoxicated an individual is and how many a drinks a person has had. While overall it is an establishment’s responsibility to make sure intoxicated customers should not get into a vehicle, it is difficult to do more than ask them if they’ll be driving. This is especially true at a golf course, where taking away a member’s car keys could be career suicide for employees.

Really, what it comes down to is personal responsibility. The drinking age is ostensibly set at 19 for a reason â€" there’s an expectation people are able to make rational and educated decisions by this age. In this day and age if someone still thinks drinking and driving isn’t a life-threatening decision then they have a bankrupt set of morals.

Furthermore, most people have a fairly good idea before going out to the bar they’ll likely be too intoxicated to drive in a short period of time. The fact the young Mulcahy and his friends allegedly consumed 31 drinks in three hours would seem to indicate this wasn’t just an accident.

There are a plethora of options out there for people who find themselves drunk and need to get home and there should be a point in the night they are still sober enough to arrange for a way home.

While the law fairly clearly sets out the duty of care for a serving establishment, the bar never sat you down and poured those tequila sunrises down your throat. If you made the choice to go out drinking then you have a responsibility to get yourself home safely.

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