Brewers, bar staff push safe drinking

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 February, 2010, 12:00am

A year after tougher drink-driving laws and random breath testing came into force, another brewer is about to join Heineken in printing anti-drink-driving messages on its cans and bottles, and a bartenders' union is launching an internationally accredited course on bar service that will include a section on responsible drinking.

Brewers and distributors have also joined forces recently to establish an organisation that is launching a range of campaigns to educate the industry and public about responsible drinking.

San Miguel will start printing the message 'Enjoy responsibly' in English and Chinese on its beer cans and bottles by the end of March. Consumers should start seeing the new design in supermarkets and retailers some time before May.

The bartending course developed and run by the Hong Kong Bartenders Association, most of whose members work in the liquor-selling areas of hotels, involves 48 hours of instruction over eight weeks. It will cover all areas of alcohol service, including different drinks and how to serve them, cocktail mixing, day to day management and equipment, plus a module on how to handle people who have drunk too much.

'If the customer no longer has a clear mind, like they start speaking nonsense, bartenders should stop serving them alcohol, advise them to eat some food, drink some water and, most importantly, stop them from picking up their cars,' the association's chairman, Neil Wong Siu-chung, said.

The first course with a maximum of 35 participants, starts next month and further courses will be run according to demand. It costs HK$3,300 for a member or HK$3,800 for a non-member.

Several institutions offer similar courses, but the association's is recognised by the International Bartenders Association, which has affiliates in more than 40 countries.

Since the new drink-driving laws came into force, alcohol producers and distributors have set up a coalition, the Hong Kong Forum for Responsible Drinking, or FReD, to educate the trade and public about safe consumption of alcohol.

Yesterday it launched a campaign to urge pubs and clubs to display stickers with the message 'If you drink, don't drive'. It is also building a website to inform the trade and public about the impact of alcohol and has other campaigns under way or in the planning.

However, members of the forum are yet to reach consensus on warning labels. 'It remains a decision for individual corporations, but [printing warning slogans] on bottles is only one of the options. Education is the ultimate solution to change [drinkers'] attitudes,' chairwoman Jenny To Sui-lai said.

Steven Co, a senior manager of Hong Kong's San Miguel brewery and chairman of the Beer Coalition, which represents brewers in the city, said putting slogans on cans and bottles was a more effective way to deliver the responsible drinking message than putting them on associated products, such as coasters.

But because most alcohol products were produced and packaged overseas, it was difficult for local offices to alter their design.

Police arrested 892 drink-drivers from February 1 last year to December, down 35 per cent from the 1,300 arrested in the same period in 2008.

Over the limit

The legal permitted alcohol level for driving is (per 100ml of blood): 50mg

The penalties for drink-driving are a fine of up to: HK$25,000 and jail of up to: 3 years

The penalties for dangerous driving causing death are fines of up to: HK$50,000 and jail of up to: 10 years