Bootlegging was the smuggling and selling of alcohol at exorbitant prices. Back in the 1920’s the selling of alcohol was illegal and hence this opened the door for an industry where gangsters and mafia characters thrived. In 1923, the sale of alcohol in the United States became legal and hence the behavioral shift of generations since. The United States and indeed the world haven’t been the same since.
I stopped by a very popular over the hill retail liquor store several weekends ago and was overcome with emotion because of what I saw. There were about 20 people packed in this retail liquor store and most of the customers were irate because they did not want to wait to get served; they couldn’t wait to get their order of rum, beer or liquor.
I was served in about 10 minutes and went to leave the area when I saw a group of about 15 men and women engaged in a loud discussion and dressed in t-shirts of a young man who recently passed away. You guessed it; everyone had a either a cup or a bottle in their hand and there was no order; just laughing, cussing and loud speaking.
Then it hit me. Alcohol is destroying the Bahamian society. Everywhere you turn, you can see persons “horsebacking” liquor or at the liquor store buying liquor to drink. I remember campaigning in the last general elections meeting young men on a daily basis. Sadly, a lot of them were only focused on getting alcohol to drink. In one instance I told two unemployed men in their early 40’s about a job fair commencing the next day. I told them to get a haircut and shave and come dressed in business attire to the job fair. One of the men then asked me if I had something in the van to drink. There was no concern about the time of the job fair or the place where it was being held. This information was not a priority.
The other gentlemen asked me if there was going to be drinks after the job fair. I told him no. Neither of these men appeared at the job fair the following day.
7:00 a.m. each morning finds many able bodied Bahamian men with their “tongues tied”. By 9:00 a.m. many of them are fast asleep or so incapacitated that they become a nuisance to themselves and to other persons around them. Aristocrat aka “Mother Pratt”, Bacardi and Natasha seems to be the preferred choice of drink for some Bahamians today. Gordon’s Gin and Absolut Vodka are also very popular brands.
The contributions that these men could be making to society had they not become alcoholics is immeasurable. But who is at fault? We all know that there is a bar on every street corner in New Providence. I am not even counting the illegal "30 days" liquor outlets. In fact, you can get a half pint quicker than you can get a loaf of bread or a band aid. Now isn’t something wrong with this picture?
Now I know that many companies profit from the sale of alcohol in the Bahamas. I myself operated a liquor store at one point. I am not casting blame on these businesses but I am just stating the reality of the situation. Alcohol is destroying our country and many of our young men are becoming alcoholics before they even get a fighting chance at life.
Dangerous and reckless driving, bar room fights, domestic violence, depression and heart and liver disease are some of the negative effects of alcohol consumption. And don’t forget alcohol addiction. This is the biggest blow to the individual because he or she now becomes a dysfunctional human being.
It is fashionable for a lot of our young men especially teenagers to drink beer when they are illegally allowed to enter nightclubs and when they attend social events. Even our young women tend to enjoy liqueurs mixed with a choice of juice or soda. They start with just a drink and after some time this progresses to an uncontrollable urge to just drink liquor.
Let us dare not talk about the liquor that is consumed during the election period?
I don’t have the answer to reducing alcoholic consumption in the Bahamas, but we can start by eliminating the ease in which anyone can buy alcohol? Can we start to enforce the age limit where citizens can buy alcohol and can we stiffen the penalties for liquor retailers who sell alcohol to persons who they know have already had their “load”? Can we also reduce the amount of liquor licenses that presently exist in the Bahamas, especially in New Providence? Can we direct persons caught drunk in the public to attend Alcoholics Anonymous sessions? I know we will probably need several locations to handle the amount of participants but we have to start somewhere.
What about outlawing drinking and driving? Shouldn’t we vigorously enforce this law? Can’t we revisit our laws to make it illegal to be found with an open liquor bottle in your vehicle while driving? This certainly will put the pressure on our citizens to remain sober.
I am of the view that having more liquor stores than there are schools and play grounds send the wrong message to our citizenry. The revenue garnered from renewing a senseless and inordinate amount of liquor licenses certainly can’t be in the best interest of the country. We need to regulate this industry with a fine comb and ensure that we make it more difficult for our youth to just stop by a window and order liquor. Alcohol although legal is a harmful drug and it is destroying our little country but we must act now and do something about it. Or have we become delusional from the profits from the sale of alcohol?