The demon wowsersKieran Haslett-Moore
In early part of the 20th century the temperance movement managed to push a poll on prohibition every three years. It never achieved the 50 percent threshold, but the threat of prohibition meant that the breweries and landlords of the nation’s pubs halted investment meaning that they quickly devolved into run down booze barns lacking in comfort and at times sanitation.
Other laws banned bar maids making it illegal for a woman to work in a bar unless she was the landlord’s wife. All entertainment and games were banned from the pub under the thinking that these would lure people into the world of the ‘Demon Drink’. Alcohol was banned from restaurants apart from a two hour window at dinnertime. The final act of insanity came with six o’clock closing. In 1917 under the wartime legislation the pubs were forced to close at six o’clock ushering in the era of the swill. Men would rush from their workplaces to the pub to fit in as many drinks as possible in the hour open to them to drink.
The brewers made their beers as flavourless and the New Zealand population learnt to drink as much in as little time as possible. The temperance movement had utterly and effectively instilled binge drinking into Kiwi culture. Six o’clock closing lasted until 1967 and we are still dealing with its effects all these years later.
And now the Wowsers are at again. Recently the South Auckland District Licensing Authority started blackmailing off-licenses to sign a contract saying they would stop selling individual bottles of RTD’s and beer. Not only does this seem a totally insane thing for the D.L.A to do, as it effectively kills craft beer which tends to come in single bottles, but at a wider level it means that people are effectively being forced to buy more alcohol not less. The move is blatantly contrary to the Sale of Liquor Act and everything it says about reducing harm from alcohol.
Yet again we see a temperance act that will increase problem drinking not reduce it. The trend has already spread to Central Auckland, and if it keeps gaining momentum it could be here soon. If it does there is going to be a fight. The Craft Beer Capital and common sense on one side and the ‘demon wowsers’ on the other. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.