Drinkers in a froth over beer tax

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 March, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 March, 2001, 12:00am

Ah, there's nothing like a good budget to get the pub crowds excited.

Lai See can well imagine the scene in places like Delaney's and Dublin Jack's yesterday, as beer-bellied regulars jockied for stools closest to the big screen.

How the cheers must have risen as Donald's face filled it, eyes sombre above his most earnest of bow ties.

As the money measures were unveiled, Hong Kong's colonial throwbacks held their collective breath.

What lay in store? What efforts would be made to preserve their way of life?

Then he said it. Extra tax was to be levied . . . on beer and ciggies.

Lai See could almost hear the gasps of horror rising from the bar.

And this wasn't just random targeting of alcohol. The interests of the cork-sniffing set had been protected. Wine prices emerge unscathed.

Outrage rippled the bars. This was discrimination!

It amounted to nothing less than a Yob Tax.

Still, the financial secretary did make one concession. Maybe, just maybe, he'll let them bet on the footy. With a little luck, they could be calling their bookies by next year's world cup.

Let's hope that's enough to keep them in the SAR. It would be terrible if they were to be frightened off by the high cost of boozing.

We need them and their kind. Without them, we'd all become members of the Hong Kong lic.

Let's face it. Those people put the 'pub' into public.

Perfect PR: All that money-speak can get confusing.

So while Donald was mapping out our financial fate, top Hong Kong number crunchers were on the alert.

Press releases had been sent out to remind local hacks that Arthur Andersen had established a hotline especially for the occasion.

The firm was poised to deal with press queries and requests for comments, reactions and interviews.

'This hotline will be manned from 12 noon to 8pm,' it said. 'Hotline number is 2852-7557.'

But when a journo took the firm up on its offer, a recorded voice informed her that the number she had dialled was no longer in service. For those who insisted on going ahead with their quest, the voice did eventually cough up another set of digits 'if you are trying to call Arthur Andersen'.

First time we've come across a hotline playing it cool.

Hefty price: The other day we noticed a sign up in Quarry Bay's Cafe Einstein. It proclaimed that there was a special deal on for 'German largers'. Even if they are getting a good price, Lai See still doesn't think it's appropriate to comment on other nations' physiques.

Killer puff: Lai See loves new inventions. Yesterday a British firm filed a patent for a talking cigarette packet.

Every single time the smoker lifts the lid, a voice announces that 'this may kill you'.

The inventors are even thinking of including a snatch of the funeral march as a musical backdrop.

Oddly enough, tobacco companies haven't been fighting with each other over who gets to be the first one to offer it.

Driven to disgrace: After just three weeks in office, Western Australia's minister for road safety was relieved of some of her duties yesterday. She lost her driver's licence for the third time last week when police caught her speeding in her new official car.

Graphic: whee08gbz