Nova Scotia

Solutions sought after deadly year for Halifax bars

After a particularly deadly year for the Halifax bar scene, bar owners and police continue to search for ways to curb violence downtown.
Last year a pilot project, called the Pass Program, was introduced that would suspend troublemakers from all downtown bars. (CBC)

After a particularly deadly year for the Halifax bar scene, bar owners and police continue to search for ways to curb violence downtown.

Late last year a pilot project, called the Pass Program, was introduced that would suspend people from all downtown bars if they caused trouble.

Since the project began in November more than 80 people have faced suspension from 20 bars, ranging from a few weeks to a lifetime ban.

Gordon Stewart of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia says the names started piling up after the program began last Christmas.

"Very quickly, it built up very quickly. I think the word got out that if you're going to cause a problem you're going to get suspended from a bar and it could be for a long time so you're maybe going to have think twice about that," Stewart said.

Stewart says more than half the suspensions were for trouble caused not inside the bars, but outside after patrons had been asked to leave or denied entrance.

He calls the Pass Program a success, but says it doesn't tackle the root problem — the desire to binge drink.

"We're creating a whole new kind of beast.  Our culture doesn't allow for people to grow up with a drinking culture that's civil," Stewart said, "It's like one day you don't drink and the next day you're allowed to drink like crazy, that's really what we're doing."

Costa Ellis, owner of three bars downtown including ela! Greek Taverna, said he has noticed more police on the streets at night but doesn't believe police alone can prevent the kind of violence that lead to the death of Kaylin Diggs this weekend.

"I think as long as there is alcohol and as long as there are late nights, it's always going to happen," Ellis said.

Some people who go to these bars, like Ben Nichols, say one solution might be to shut down earlier.

"Having bars open until 3:30 and four o'clock in the morning only promotes long extended periods of alcohol consumption and you're taking in so much," said Nichols.

Saint Mary's University has just included a brochure about the Pass Program. It will be shared with first year students when they arrive later this summer.