Wed, Aug 02, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Kiwi bars giving pickled patrons the red card treatment

AP , WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND

Inspired by the yellow and red penalty cards flashed by soccer referees, some New Zealand bars are using color-coded cards to help curb excess drinking.

A yellow card is shown to imbibers who may be heading toward trouble during a night at the pub, while a red card removes them from the bar, said Hospitality Association of New Zealand chief executive Bruce Robertson

In a dozen bars using the cards in the North Island cities of Auckland and Wellington, a yellow card means no alcohol is served to the recipient for a specific period of time.

"If you're giving them the red card you're saying `I'm sorry, you are too affected by alcohol for us to serve you any more, or have you on the premises. I'm afraid you're going to have to go,'" he said.

Patrons who leave with "good grace" are entitled to return another time and present their red card for a free drink, Robertson said.

"It wouldn't work in all bars, but in some bars that have perhaps got a sporting focus, that may be appropriate," he said.

Although drinkers could treat the card system as a game, bar staff were trained to guard against that.

"There's always that potential -- `I'm going for a reddie tonight,'" he said.

Jason Deane, managing director of Trinity Group, which has several bars using the system, said reaction had been very positive, lightening the mood in what could be a difficult situation.

Although a free drink was on offer to red card recipients, generally they weren't being redeemed. People were too embarrassed the next day, kept the cards as a souvenir, or lost them, he said.

The nation's Alcohol Advisory Council said they were keeping an interested watch on the system's progress.

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