Idiot drunks make party street pine for a return to the porn-shop days

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 April, 2007, 12:00am

Here's a solution to the problem of idiot drunks who are straining police resources and causing havoc in Vancouver's entertainment district every weekend - fewer bars, more porn shops. OK, that's one idea that no one is advocating, least of all the city's politicians and police. But it just might work. Ten years ago, the three blocks on Granville Street near the foot of the bridge connecting downtown to the rest of the city were an eyesore of rundown hotels and porn shops. Those in the streets then were people with nowhere else to go; loiterers who hung around wanting spare change.


Now Granville Street has a new group of public annoyances.


They are the drunks who stumble out after pub closures or who can't get into the crowded clubs. Regardless of whether they are heading in or heading out, many of these louts, the city and police say, are from outside Vancouver. The city's decision in 2003 to extend bar hours to 3am was just one in a series of bureaucratic shifts and policies that culminated in the entertainment district's mayhem.


Other municipalities failed to introduce matching closure hours, so when the taps turn off in Burnaby or Coquitlam, the party hits the road and continues in Granville Street.


Another city policy that led to the entertainment district becoming so unruly was the densification of downtown. The number of people living in the area has doubled in the past decade, and it's fairly safe to assume that some of them are partying where they live. Not one policy created the problems and it will take a series of creative solutions, such as extending public transport hours, to work out how to prevent Granville Street from becoming a mosh pit.


The city has tried to solve some of the problems, but the follow-ups have failed. Police can fine offenders for public disorder and public urination, but the wallet pain is minimal, and the fines have even become something of a badge of honour for some.


Councillor Kim Capri says part of that is the result of not having the resources to track down partygoers after they sober up and quieten down. 'Police will send some of these people to the drunk tank for the night and when they get out, they'll have a C$51 (HK$345) ticket and they're high-fiving each other thinking this doesn't cause them any pain,' she says. 'A C$500 ticket would give them a wake-up call.'


Throwing more officers at the problem, which is what the police want, is not the solution, according to the councillor. A culture shift is needed.


Granville Street was intended to be a series of small, unique establishments. The original vision included one venue specialising in jazz music and another featuring blues, so a broad mix of people would come for entertainment. Instead, what has become the reality is younger crowds who can't hold their alcohol and are quick with fists and slow to go home.


Bar owners have been hiring private security to help the overwhelmed police force.


'The city lacks the capacity to pursue and back up those bylaws that were well-intentioned but not having any impact on this culture of misbehaviour,' said Dave Jones, a retired policeman in the district who now works for the Downtown Business Improvement Association. 'Being an idiot in public has become entrenched and police have become roving bouncers.'


It makes one long for the quiet, furtive porn-shop goers. Those porn shops remain on Granville Street, but there are fewer of them as more bars open. The porn shops present zero problems and people who go there care little about drawing attention to themselves.


At the risk of sounding priggish, a little more porn-store behaviour and less pub hooliganism is needed.