Crackdown on party boats as post-lockdown freedom leads to ‘revenge drinking’

Daily Telegraph, 11 December 2021

Authorities fear Sydneysiders’ post-lockdown freedom coupled with the silly season is a disastrous recipe for alcohol-fuelled violence and over-consumption.

Sydneysiders are throwing off the shackles of lockdown and “revenge drinking” in what authorities fear is becoming a powder keg of alcohol-fuelled violence and over-consumption.

The pent-up demand for booze and big nights with mates has come at a time of year already rife with increased silly behaviour.

The parties are not just in bars but also on the harbour where a multi-agency operation is targeting intoxication.

Health Services Union NSW secretary Gerard Hayes said partygoers letting off steam were putting healthcare workers at risk.

“With post-Covid revenge drinking and partying, we simply do not have the health and hospital workers needed to ensure patients get the timely care they deserve,” Mr Hayes said.

“The pent-up demand of people returning to pubs, restaurants and sporting fixtures is intense.

“People are letting loose, and for paramedics and health workers in emergency departments the impact can be brutal.”

A major crackdown on party boats has been launched as revellers take to Sydney’s waterways undeterred by the grim weather brought on by La Nina.

Liquor and Gaming NSW, NSW Police, Transport for NSW (Maritime) and NSW Food Authority officers are targeting vessel operators to make sure guests are being kept safe.

“The past month has been challenging in terms of the enthusiasm with which people have exited lockdown,” NSW Liquor and Gaming compliance director Dimitri Argeres said.

“Police have pointed to a rise in alcohol-related offences, such as intoxication and violence, and we don’t want that to carry into the Christmas and summer season.

“We’re all excited to be out again, but now more than ever is a time to make sure we support licensed hospitality businesses that need to carefully manage those licence conditions.

“We want to see people consuming alcohol responsibly, then rock and roll — enjoy your night, but don’t get involved in brawls and drunken antics.”

Few breaches were detected during the first blitz last weekend but more operations have been planned for the holiday period.

Mr Argeres said there had been several serious breaches in the past involving intoxicated patrons, with some guests using the boats to “pre-load” before causing trouble at the local bars once docked.

Party boats operate for a set charter period, often with no opportunity for patrons to disembark before the end of the trip.

This captive audience focused often around a bar can lead to increased alcohol consumption.

At the same time, the fact party boats are out on the water means they’re not as accessible when an emergency response is required — for example, due to severe intoxication or overdose.

The St Vincent’s Hospital emergency department has already reported an uptick in drug and alcohol-affected patients in the city.

Doctor Peter Price said December and January were notorious for drug and alcohol-related issues, particularly among young partygoers.

“We always get overdoses and alcohol-related violence, and quite a few people who’ve had falls in various places around the city and end up quite confused, especially in the early hours of the morning,” Dr Price said.

Dr Price said too much alcohol was one of the main causes for hospital visits among young people, but that GBH — also known as liquid ecstasy — was becoming a common reason for ED presentation.

“There is quite a bit of GBH we are seeing, as well as ecstasy, and party drugs,” he said.

“With more gatherings and large group events happening again we expect to see more of that.”