Bars call for more late-night transportation
Bar owners whose takings have dropped after a crackdown on drink-driving have asked the Government to improve late-night transport for the busy Christmas party season.
The hospitality business said a shortage of taxis and late-night buses, combined with the police crackdown, meant many people had stopped going out in case they were stranded.
Chris Garland, the chairman of the Restaurant Division of the Chamber of Commerce, said he had heard reports from several businesses who complained they had seen a decline in custom since checkpoints came into force earlier this year.
He added that with Christmas approaching, bar operators and restaurateurs were worried that they could lose revenue at one of the busiest times of the year.
Mr Garland, the managing director of Flanagan’s Irish Pub and Outback Sports Bar in Hamilton, said: “We don’t think the checkpoints are the issue. We all support the checkpoints.
But he added: “It’s very challenging for customers to get transportation home at nights.”
The Bermuda Road Safety Council launched a scheme to give free soft drinks to designated drivers this month to encourage people to continue to socialise without drink driving.
Mr Garland said that was “a good way to start”.
But he added that the Government must solve the late-night transportation system to cut the risk of drink-driving.
He added: “Where are our taxi drivers? Why aren’t we giving more young people the opportunity to make extra money by driving a well-regulated service?”
Phillip Barnett, director of the Island Restaurant Group, which includes Hamilton’s Pickled Onion, Hog Penny and Barracuda Grill, admitted: “Most restaurants are worried. We are already being impacted with a decline in customers. It is already frustrating.
“It has affected us. It’s particularly noticeable in late night venues.”
Mr Barnett, whose group also owns the Frog & Onion in Dockyard, added that it was “incredibly difficult” for customers to get taxis from the area.
He said: “Customers have to wait for hours. Managers have had to physically drive guests back to their hotels.”
Mr Barnett said he heard that one hotel told guests not to go to Dockyard because they would have problems getting public transport back.
He suggested people could use private vehicles to create an Uber-type service.
Rick Olson, the owner of Bermuda Bistro at the Beach in Hamilton, said his business had been affected by the checkpoints, but that the strategy to cut drink-driving was “long overdue”.
Mr Olson said an “expanded and improved public transportation or Uber” could help combat drink-driving.
Gladwin Phillips, of Casey’s on Queen Street in Hamilton, said the business has not been affected by the breath test checkpoints because it attracted a local crowd.
David Frost, president of the Bermuda Taxi Owners Association, said taxi drivers were “doing the best they can at nights” to help the public get home and that drivers were out until 3am every day.
Mr Frost added that drivers had problems parking at night on Front Street because private cars clogged up the spaces designated for cabs.
He said people should get direct phone numbers for taxi operators and call them when they want to be picked up.
Mr Frost said: “I know that taxis are out there at nights.”
He added that taxi drivers could face abuse from drunk passengers and that some even refused to pay.
Mr Frost said bartenders should avoid serving people who have had enough to drink to help cut down the risk of late-night problems for taxi drivers.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Tourism and Transport said the designated drivers campaign was launched after complaints from bars and restaurants about the downturn in trade.
She added that the ministry worked to ensure late night transport was available, but that it was the responsibility of individuals to get home safe without drinking and driving.
The spokeswoman said: “Having a designated driver reduces the public’s reliance on taxis and buses and is normal practice elsewhere in the world.”
She added that the demand for a night bus service was not high enough for schedules to be changed to accommodate people who might be out late.
The spokeswoman said that the Road Safety Council was not at present in discussions with taxi drivers over the provision of late-night services.