Ice and alcohol: the scary reality in hospitality today

28 August, 2015 by
Industry Observer

Alcohol and ice make a lethal combination and it's time for the hospitality industry to address the issue, writes Industry Observer. 

We tend to become a bit blas about the impact of different drugs in the community. Just like a car crash – they make headlines one day, and are forgotten the next, however drug use is an issue we need to address, especially within the hospitality industry. Together with the euphemistically called "recreational" drugs which are causing all sorts of issues, ice in particular is a problem that's putting pressure on both sides of the hospitality divide. Let's not convince ourselves that it is a problem for someone else; ice is causing all sorts of problems that should be addressed with rational thought, compassion and with some responsibility taken by both the users and those around them. 

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If you look at one of the key battlegrounds of pubs and clubs, the answer to me is so clear: there needs to be a greater enforcement of responsible serving of alcohol. Seems really simple doesn't it? Teach your bar teams to assess customers who are not at their peak and pull their service.

Unfortunately, it is not that easy. Pubs and clubs are profit driven businesses with enough regulatory headaches from councils, licensing boards, local residents and fierce competition. It actually feels mean to ask them to do more. 

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The ice part of the equation is bought into play when anecdotal research is showing that punters with ice in their system are drinking more and have the strength of 10 red headed Irishman in a fight. The problem won't be solved by keeping them less drunk, but it could at least mitigate part of the messed up thought processes. When I have been at the hotel, restaurant, function or club coal-face and have a customer giving the booze a red hot thrashing, it takes some backbone to have the conversation that enough is enough. But it still has to happen and the risk of a loss of a few dollars should be offset by an improvement in your premise's reputation for taking a stand against boorish behaviour.  

I am also aware of the 'loyalty' factor and the fact that old mate behind the jump reckons that his customer is 'usually' alright – they are not taking the broader picture into mind. The family seated next to the unruly drunks are not going to be rapt and they will 'share' their experience. 

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Unfortunately the problem doesn't stop when your security team asks a couple of rowdy souls to move on – ask the police and firefighters who cut them from the wreck of a crash, or the nurses and doctors getting belted up in the emergency wards. This pervasive menace is stuffing up the lives of people left, right and centre. And if we are having honest conversations with the public, we should be having them with our teams. Take note of those having a few extra 'big nights' and how they present for work. Look for signs of changes in behaviour and being short of cash before payday. Check out how healthy they look and whether they appear anxious or not. I'm no doctor, but I am observant and there are plenty of signs that people give off without coming out and saying – 'look boss, I'm on the gear.' Talk to your HR departments about appropriate strategies for managing these people within your system, because whether you admit it or not, they are there. We're kidding ourselves if we think they're not. Hospitality is an adrenaline game and there have always been players who push the addiction envelope to get them through, but this era sees ice and booze as a combination from hell.

When you find them, use counselling, education and compassion as better options than punishment as the long-term benefit to the offender is sure to be better. 

I am worried for the generation that sit today in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties – often they are the kids of the living large, big spending, have-it-all generation that were the same age through the excess riddled 80s. Little of what I saw as a young barman or waiter gives me any faith that the children will not prove to be heightened versions of their parents – and that is a truly scary thought. I hope I am wrong. 

Earlier this year, data from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey revealed that trade workers and employees in the hospitality industry are the highest users of ice (methamphetamine) in the Australian workforce.