Wine bars aren't everybody's jam—they're kind of the rom-coms of the bar world—but you've got to think that the people that frequent such establishments go there because they enjoy doing so, usually in the company of friends. The Australian police, however, don't buy into that crap, and have accused a Sydney wine bar's by-the-glass menu of promoting "unsavory antisocial behaviour."
New South Wales cops were on patrol in nightlife neighborhoods to check in on local pubs, and when they stopped into the wine bar 10 William St., they found a few things that rankled their Puritan hearts. A sign outside read, "Real wine, free wine"—referring to the restaurant's natural, additive-free wines—and the by-the-glass menu was near the restaurant entrance. The cops thought the menu, visible from the street, promoted heavy drinking and failed to make clear that 10 William St. also serves food. The police proceeded to question the staff.
One of 10 William St.'s owners, Giovanni Paradiso, posted a photo to Instagram of the offending menu after the talking-to. "So according to NSW POLICE FORCE our blackboard with what we are pouring by the glass is promoting unsavoury behaviour. SYDNEY WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING," he wrote. The blackboard menu, according to ownership, had been there for six years.
While you can certainly overindulge in any alcoholic beverage—and wine will make you pay for it with a mean hangover—wine bars aren't exactly known for rowdy behavior. Most people don't go down to the wine bar to rip shots and get into fistfights.
But apparently brawling is a problem in the area, and the warning to 10 William St. was part of an ongoing crackdown on local nightlife, specifically targeting alcohol-related violence and compliance with liquor laws. Cops say they were originally called to the restaurant at 11 PM on Saturday to assist a "heavily intoxicated woman in the gutter outside," and that when they arrived, the kitchen was closed and that the restaurant was operating as a bar. Despite expressing concerns about the menu, the police aren't filing charges against the restaurant.
"It is common for police to provide advice to licensees regarding potential licensing breaches or issues during business inspections," the police said in a statement to Broadsheet. The police told the manager that a small bar liquor license might be more appropriate than 10 William St.'s restaurant license.
And the legal apparatus wasn't just patrolling the streets. Also over the weekend, the government in New South Wales extended a ban on all new pub and club licenses in the neighborhood of Kings Cross and Sydney's center for a year. "Lockout laws" now prevent patrons from entering bars after 1:30 AM.
The state says that since the lockout laws were introduced, assaults have fallen by 32 percent in King's Cross, and 40 percent in the city center. The Guardian says that at the nearby Star casino, which isn't subject to the lockout rules, assaults have jumped 88 percent.
But the laws are causing distress among local business owners, who say that the laws are bad for business and are unfair to tamer establishments.
"There's an undercurrent of disappointment amongst venue owners," 10 William St. co-owner Marco Ambrosino told Broadsheet. "There seems to be a real confusion of drinking and dining… We're very, very frustrated. None of us have had any trouble. The police are painting us all with one brush."
To return to the "antisocial behaviour" accusation: Sure, the world of wine can be intimidating for novices, but a glass of riesling doesn't scream, "Don't talk to me." Perhaps the New South Wales police should visit 10 William St. on their day off, get a nice glass of red, and see where the night takes them.