Breathalysers in clubs – the great night out takes its last breath

If British officialdom has its way then that age-old tradition of having a boozy night out at the weekend will soon be a thing of the past. Over the past few years politicians and an assortment of busybodies have sought to depict young revellers as being out of control and a danger to themselves and others. Binge drinking, pre-loading (having a drink before you go out) and extended licensing hours are all resulting in more drunken anti-social behaviour and have turned our city centres into war zones. Apparently.

This has led to a range of new measures being proposed to tackle this new plague of drunken disorder, from minimum pricing on alcohol to privately run drunk tanks. Now the Norwich police force has come up with the bright idea of issuing breathalysers to bars and nightclubs to check entrants who may have had too much to drink. Advocates of the scheme claim it’s designed to ‘raise awareness of the dangers of alcohol’, to safeguard ‘at risk’ drinkers who don’t know they’ve had too much, and of course, to protect the ‘vulnerable’ from crime and potentially dangerous liaisons (presumably with members of the opposite sex).

Since when, you might ask, did having a couple of drinks before hitting the clubs spell the end for civilisation? Of course, some people over do it and on occasions get a bit too drunk, but how many of us didn’t do that when we were young? It’s all part of learning your level. I learned very early on that if I have any more than three pints then I’m in trouble.

Nightclubs were traditionally places where young people made their first steps into the adult world, escaped their parents, teachers, bosses and asserted their own independence. On any night out you might meet the love of your life, make new friends, new enemies, and find yourself in any number of tricky situations that you had to negotiate your own way out of. If you were really lucky you might even get laid. And possibly regret it (or not) in the morning. However, for proponents of in-club breathalysers, today’s young people are somehow different to young people in the past. They’re more vulnerable and in need of protection from themselves and others.

Like so many other areas of everyday life, our Saturday nights out are in danger of being regulated out of existence. If we continue to try and protect young people from making mistakes and bad decisions how are they ever going to learn, have experiences and grow up? Let’s keep the breathalysers and the busybodies out of our nightlife and let the good times keep rolling - louts and all.

Niall Crowley is a writer based in London.

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