Monday, February 15, 2010

Bar watch program coming to Halifax

Following in the footsteps of British Columbia and Alberta, bar owners in Halifax are talking about rolling out a "Bar Watch" program. You can read about other programs here: id swiping.

What is particularly troubling or at the very least needs close scrutiny is the suggestion that the banned list is going to originate from the police. So far, I haven't seen what gives the police the right to decide who goes into licensed establishments and what criteria they will use. I haven't seen any detail about how it with be implemented and what information will be demanded from all bar patrons.

Stay tuned.

Bar owners see police role in managing ban (UNews)

The group spearheading a citywide bar-goer blacklist may rely on police to provide personal information of banned patrons, according to a spokesperson for the group.

"I'm assuming that the police would hand it over to us, I can't see why they wouldn't," said Richard Stevens of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia. "I'm fairly certain that that's the way it would go."

Stevens is a co-owner of the Pogue Fado Irish Public House, as well as chair of the association's government-affairs committee. That committee met Thursday with its partners in this project - the municipality, police and provincial liquor enforcement officials - and agreed in principle to proceed with the plan.

The Bar Watch program, as it's been dubbed, may begin as early as April, but there's a lot still up in the air. Though Stevens said he's just speculating at this point, maintaining a database of patrons barred from Halifax's drinking establishments would be key.

This list would likely contain "very basic biographical information about the person," such as name and address, he said. Some details of the incident that earned them their spot on the list may also be included, including names of witnesses and security staff involved.

The list would be maintained by the association, and only bar owners and general managers would be able to add people to it. Bar security would only see the names of banned patrons, not their full details.

"It would take a significant incident (to get on the list). This isn't anything that any of the owners take lightly," Stevens said.

"I'm assuming that probably 75 to 80 per cent of the people that end up getting barred, the police would probably end up getting involved anyway ... because it would be that serious."

Even if bar security have to restrain patrons involved in a fight or another serious incident, the bouncers have no right to search them for ID, he said.

"If they fail to provide identification, if and when they've been restrained after an incident, we'd call the police," he said. "The police would come and the police would get that information."

Stevens said he believes the police will provide the information necessary for the blacklist. Arrest records are public.

Police advising, but no word on further role

Halifax Regional Police spokesperson Cst. Brian Palmeter said the police's role "is to provide any guidance or assistance that they would ask from us."

"All that we're really saying about it is that we're aware the Restaurant Association has had some preliminary discussions about this ... We would support anything that any business would do to make it safer for their customers ... but as far as this goes, this is something that they're looking at doing. It's not a police matter."

At the time, Palmeter was not asked and did not comment on whether police would provide the association with personal information of patrons.

Stevens said the police have been advising the association on the administration of the program.

"They have a lot more experience with these programs than we do," he said. "They're guiding us along, providing advice, and they're going to stay by our side ... until we get this thing up and running."

Stevens said the police could be involved in this capacity for one to two years.

The next step in getting this program off the ground is a meeting with "the key stakeholders around HRM," which Stevens said he expects within the next two or three weeks.

"We'll target, with the help of the police force, 10 or 12 key establishments, contact the owners, and call them in for a meeting where we'll describe the program, its objectives, what we hope to accomplish, and ask them to get onboard."

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