When San Antonio’s left-wing Deputy Mayor Pablo Valdés quickly pushed through a new law to close all ‘West End’ bars by 3am I’m sure he did it for all the right reasons as he saw it.
After all he was put in his current political position by a fervent and passionate (and mainly young) electorate tired of the constant noise and associated problems from an area famous for…..noise and it’s associated problems.
Sr Valdés appears to be an idealist looking for quick solutions to long term problems. For example: Let’s change the tourism model of San Antonio? That’s easy right, just close down all the businesses that don’t fit in with the ‘plan’……but actually not that easy when you don’t have the right infrastructure to improve quality overnight. Closing and prohibiting with nothing in reserve is comercial suicide, diminishing your product with nothing to replace it with doesn’t make any sense.
Too much noise in the West End? That’s easy again! Close all the bars 2 hours earlier and the noise will simply disappear as everyone files home to bed early in an orderly fashion. A relatively simple solution to a major problem that has evolved over 50 years but as we have seen this week this decision has backfired in dramatic and tragic circumstances.
Instead of solving the noise problem for a few hundred residents the decision to close bars earlier has had 2 massive knock-on effects for the local community. Firstly it’s forced thousands of people on to the street at the same time so rather than the natural filtration of previous years where people would start drifting off after 3am and the town would wind down gradually the lively crowd all hit the street at exactly the same time so the noise levels now go off the scale, the exact opposite of what the new law intended.
Secondly and more seriously it has pushed the party crowd to find new ways of carrying on the fun. Instead of remaining in a controlled zone it means that they inevitably drift to public places such as the fountains, the beach, the harbour or back to their hotel. As we have seen, 3am is way too early to finish on an island that doesn’t really come to life until midnight.
And here comes the big caveat that obviously wasn’t thought through properly – pushing a few thousand people onto the dark streets of San Antonio in the early hours of the morning has consequences, especially when those streets are not the safest place in the world. Don’t get me wrong we aren’t talking about the New York Bronx of the 70s but there are unscrupulous people out there looking to take advantage of the situation.
Of course the party crowd could always go back to their beds or on to a club and some local residents may say that if tourists get blind drunk and put themselves in a position of danger then they only have themselves to blame but as we have seen over the last couple of weeks forcing people out of a reasonably controlled environment and letting them fend for themselves with little police presence can have tragic repercussions.
As an honourable man I’m sure the Deputy Mayor of San Antonio will acknowledge that there must be a better solution to the current untenable situation. An unscrupulous politician may take advantage and heap further blame on to local legal businesses for creating this environment but that would be like blaming youngsters for having the audacity to try and have a good time whilst they are on holiday and nobody is that stupid…..are they?