Tim Walker’s Over the Bar

I am all too familiar with the exorbitant price of alcohol at on-licensed as opposed off-licensed liquor outlets.

I accept that although I can enter a bottle store and purchase a 1 Litre bottle of Scotch whisky for $33, from which I can then pour myself approximately 32 standard drinks, averaging a little over $1 a drink, if I choose to go on-licence, at around $4 a nip, that same bottle of liquor would cost me $130. That’s almost a $100 profit they make on every bottle of Scotch.

As previously stated, I accept that. Apparently what you’re really paying for is the social environment, you know, the ambiance; the atmosphere…

In city bars and nightclubs I can go along with this. I understand that when I enter a nightclub and order a glass of lemon lime and bitters – a non-alcoholic beverage – they charge me over $5. I’m paying for the experience. Right. Makes sense. So the following weekend, when I venture out in my little rural ghost town and embark on the local tavern there, with its cramped layout that makes the usual Friday night patronage of seven drunken locals and one or two passers-through appear bustling, along with sub standard facilities, a malodour that has been present ever since the prohibition of indoor smoking, dated décor and threadbare carpet, how the hell do they justify charging similar prices?

The week after the Christchurch show was my hometown’s annual A&P show. This always promises a big night at the local. Typically bound by financial restraints however, I downed a large drink at home then made my way to the pub, calculating how much they would have charged me over the bar for that same beverage – if a pint of Scotch and ginger ale mixed at half/half ratio is equal to 12 standard drinks and they’re charging $4 a drink…

After wrestling my way to the bar I ordered my usual non-alcoholic alternative of lemon lime and bitters. They didn’t have any. I ordered a Coke. I watched with impatience as the dowdy middle-aged woman filled the 12 ounce tumbler with a feeble stream of cola syrup and carbonated water. She then looked up and with an uninterested gaze squawked, “That’ll be four dollars.” I handed over a five, took my drink, also my dollar, and absconded.

Turns out a pint glass filled with a similar liquid was $5.

A pint of beer that night would cost a punter $6.

That made me chuckle.

With such little incentive to abstain from alcohol it’s no wonder that rural roads are overrun with intoxicated drivers; given the recent reduction in the legal blood-alcohol limit rural alcohol distribution establishments must start offering cheaper non-alcoholic alternatives or simply, people are going to drink at home.

Like me.



Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Moe Szyslak

Photography by Barney Gumble

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