Bans on the sale of alcohol in New Caledonia
One of the things that has changed in New Caledonia since we were last here (2005-07) is where and when alcohol is sold. In a move to curb alcohol-related crime and drunk driving, the government has experimented with bans on alcohol sales in Nouméa and other parts of the island since 2008.
Here is the ruling as I understand it to currently stand:
- Alcohol can not be sold on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 12 noon and 9pm.
- There will be no sale of alcohol on public holidays throughout New Caledonia.
- In some communes, it is also forbidden to sell alcohol the day before a public holiday, after 12 noon.
For example, if we take the upcoming 1 November holiday, here are the restrictions for Nouméa:
- No sale of alcohol between Wednesday, 31 October 12 noon and Thursday, 1 November at 9pm (so no Wednesday evening or Thursday morning sales).
- For the weekend following 1 November, alcohol may not be sold between Saturday, 3 November, 12 noon and Sunday, 4 November, at 9pm (so no Saturday evening or Sunday morning sales). Note that this weekend is special as it follows a holiday. Normally the weekend sales are as above.
If you have any doubt about when you can buy alcohol, you can look up the official notices here.
These rules do not apply to hotels and restaurants. Wine merchants are also exempt from these regulations, but only for wine and wine products.
From what I can figure out, here is when you can buy alcohol:
- During the week until 12 noon on Friday.
- Before 12 noon on Saturday and Sunday (note many big grocery stores are open on Saturday and Sunday mornings, at least in Nouméa, and that many in New Caledonia are early risers).
- After 9pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights (if you can find an open store).
- Any time you like in a hotel or restaurant.
- Any time you like from a wine merchant (if you are after wine).
To my admittedly limited mind, there is a wee bit of faulty logic here. First of all, the reality is people are stocking up ahead of weekends and holidays. Second of all, if someone really wanted to buy alcohol on a weekend, he/she could – by getting up to buy it before noon. The only real difficulty is holidays, but again, people stock up. One can also go to a club or a wine merchant and purchase alcohol any time one wants on a weekend.
A quick reading of the headlines in the local newspaper seems to indicate that such bans are helping, at least in the north of the island. I still don’t think it is enough, as I said in my last post. I’m also not 100% the bans are as efficient as they could be, given that bans usually encourage people to find other ways to procure what they want/need.
But I don’t yet know what the answer is. Higher alcohol taxes? More road checks? Stricter penalties for alcohol-related crime and drunk driving? More graphic awareness campaigns in the local media?
I’d be interested in what you think, if you are here or somewhere else. Are the bans working here? Is there something else that can be done? And if you are in another country, how does your country control alcohol-related crime and drunk driving? Answers in the comment section, please!