The Big Alcohol Debate: Could Brighton Learn from the USA?

Alcohol: Brighton's dirty secret?

Photo: designmynight.com

Now, I’m not sure whether you will have heard but the people of Brighton like to have fun. 

For years now, the city has been garnering a growing reputation as one of the top party cities in the United Kingdom. Indeed, it is arguably second only to London in terms of what its nightlife can offer, both in quantity and in quality. In a city that rarely, if ever, discriminates, there is something for each and every one of us. Whatever you fancy and whichever direction you want your night to go, the city of Brighton will be there to make it happen.

Brighton’s biggest and best nightlife spots are hotbeds for drinking. And not just drinking, but drinking in vast quantities. As one of the country’s major student cities, it’s no surprise that clubs such as Pryzm, Coalition, the Haunt and Shooshh make Brighton such a popular place to party given the plethora of drink deals on offer to make getting drunk just that little bit cheaper.

Alcohol forms a huge part of the Brighton party scene – Photo: designmynight.com

Moreover, there are an enormous amount of pubs willing to offer their wares to punters who’d rather sit down and drink in the atmosphere (amongst other things, no doubt).

So there’s really no way to sugarcoat this: alcohol forms a major part of Brightonian culture. In the last big report on alcohol in the city, conducted by Brighton and Hove City Council, over 60% of people said that alcohol was an active part of their social lives, while even more said that it was easy to get hold of. So it’s clear that drinking is the aim of the game for a large majority of people in the city.

And while it must bring in huge amounts of money, it does beg the question: is a heavy reliance on alcohol a good thing for a city as a whole? Statistics and recent events would suggest different.

The same study revealed that nearly 40% of people try to avoid parts of Brighton and Hove due to the behaviour of drunkards, while a similar number are actually worried about the negative effects alcohol consumption may have on the city. Despite a majority enjoying the drinking culture, it seems that a considerable number are deeply concerned by the matter.

What’s more, as we at the Brighton Journal reported earlier this month, Sussex Police are in the midst of a summer drink-driving crackdown known as Operation Dragonfly. Moreover, in the last five years, Brighton and Hove City Council estimate nearly £200m have been spent purely on alcohol-related traffic incidents and around a fifth of all fatal traffic collisions are alcohol-related. This again begs the question as to whether the economical argument is worth it given the amount of money spent anyway, but also whether the loss of live could be avoided by stricter alcohol regulation.

Operation Dragonfly has been ongoing all summer - Photo: Sussex Police

Operation Dragonfly has been ongoing all summer – Photo: Sussex Police

Now obviously Brighton does act as something of a beacon of progress for the United Kingdom. But could Brighton, primarily a party city, benefit from taking a step back to a less permissive time? Perhaps even look to another country?

The United States have much stricter alcohol laws than the UK. I spent the last year in the state of Pennsylvania and their approach to alcohol is potentially the strictest in the country; it is also rather refreshing: a similar driving age combined with an older drinking age meant minors had more time to learn about the dangers on the road. Alcohol was more difficult to get hold of, as certain shops were only allowed to sell certain things. Perhaps even more effective was the fact that underage drinking was a criminal offence. Moreover, in the past few years alcohol-related road collisions have been decreasing rapidly, indicating the restrictions are working. It certainly provided food for thought considering I came back to a city with such a liberal attitude to drinking.

Pennsylvania liquor laws are strict, while drunk-driving incidents are decreasing - Photo: WTAE

Pennsylvania liquor laws are strict, while drunk-driving incidents are decreasing – Photo: WTAE

Could it be that, in a year when the USA has become a laughing stock in the form of Donald Trump, we could actually benefit from their wisdom?

What do you reckon? Does Brighton rely on alcohol too much, or could it learn a lesson from the United States? Let us know.

Matt Cowdock, @MattCowdock, matt@bjournal.co

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