LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND – Lausanne’s city council is likely to have a heated debate this month over curbing alcohol sales, as police deal with a growing number of fights outside the city’s nightclubs at closing time. Swiss journalists who have been interviewing numerous politicians and police officers are seeing a growing concern over cheap booze sold in the evening that may be playing a key role in the increasing violence.
The city has twice rejected calls by some politicians for alcohol sales to end earlier, and the idea remains politically charged. But Geneva’s success in reducing violence and cutting the number of young people hospitalized after drinking too much is helping focus attention on this option. The city currently has what it calls its white hour, from 05:00-06:30 in the morning when no alcohol can be sold. Drinks prices in nightclubs are sufficiently high to discourage mass consumption, but cheaper alcohol is on sale at the train station until 22:00 and in neighborhood Mom & Pop shops until 22:00.
The Tribune de Geneve cautions that the law in Geneva, which in 2009 restricted sales to no later than 21:00, isn’t always respected, as its journalist easily showed.
Police in May reported three serious outbreaks that started at 04:00 as clubs closed and small groups gathered, picking fights. Place Bel-air, near the Flon area, is the most seriously affected. The worst incident to date was a 14 May fight involving some 200 individuals, which began when a group began to throw glass bottles at police who arrived as clubs were closing, to enforce calm.