G.Mungunsukh: Strict curfew of nightclubs contributes to alcoholism


The following is an interview detailing the operations of the nightclubs in Mongolia with G. Munkhsukh, member of the working group working to set standards for the operation of nightclubs in Mongolia. This article is translated from the Undesnii Shuudan Newspaper.

-Many people believe that the nightclubs are the cause of alcohol abuse and alcohol-related crimes. What actually is the official government standard for nightclubs and bars? Is there such standard in Mongolia?
-The legal conditions surrounding standards for nightclubs and bars in Mongolia is actually very poor. We tend to view and talk about nightclubs as if they were the root of everything bad and faulty within our culture and think that they encourage the use of alcohol. Yet in reality, the customer pays an entrance fee of 10-20 thousand MNT and buys a bottle of beer for 5 thousand MNT. This limits the excessive use of alcoholic beverages through economics. In addition to this, nightclubs also provide proper services to people—they don’t encourage alcoholism. On the contrary, these services help control it. Nightclubs in Mongolia are now banned from operating past 12 am. This curfew only leads to situations where nightclubs are constantly breaching the law. There actually is no classification in Mongolia for what constitutes a bar or a nightclub. We still restrict all of these entertainment establishments to follow the standards and protocols set for public food service establishments. It is now time to set up the appropriate standards for nightclubs which correspond to their reality and to improve the legal environment surrounding this. There have been many criticisms that nightclubs and bars provoke young people to use alcohol excessively and that the number of crimes have been increasing because of this. But the truth of the matter is statistics from the General Police Department reveal that the crime rate is actually at its highest on Mondays, when night clubs usually have the fewest customers, and at its lowest on Fridays and Saturdays, when nightclubs are the most popular and crowded. I believe that this shows that nightclubs are not the cause of crimes. It is true that most crimes are alcohol-related; however the reality behind alcohol abuses can be found at ger districts, hotels, and in the streets—not at nightclubs. So I think it is necessary to re-schedule the operating hours of nightclubs and set official standards on their operations. For instance, if any offense or crime takes place around 12 am at nightclubs, people call the police. But what tends to happen is that when the police come, they don’t pay attention to the crime, but instead ask why that nightclub is still open. This situation will eventually lead to concealing crimes.
-What are the standards used in foreign countries? Do they have strict requirements to close nightclubs at a certain hour?
-If a nightclub has a university campus located nearby, there are time limits set on the operations. I don’t know what scientific basis that this time limit for Mongolia is set on, or which country has similar regulations. The regulations have been observed since September of 2003. This means it has been like this for nine years. We have almost finished composing a draft law. We will introduce this to the Minister of Justice and Home Affairs. We hope that it will go through the processes toward the approval of the law then. This law must not be postponed.
-What are the advantages and disadvantages of setting up time restrictions on the operations of nightclubs?
-The disadvantages are far more than the advantages. Firstly, alcoholism has gotten out of control. Drinking at work places, schools, homes, hotels and in the streets has increased to a great degree. Most of the crimes committed are domestic incidents. Is it better to be served at bars or nightclubs which are established specifically for this purpose or to drink vodkas at home in front of small children? The process behind the restriction law on time should have taken into consideration this situation. It causes financial losses too. In any country, 70 percent of tourists visit nightclubs. Thirdly, a corruption and bribery network has developed because of this. The fourth issue relates to human rights, the basic human right to live has been neglected. The law has resulted in many negative consequences as is not able to be properly put into practice and doesn’t have the proper legal capacity. Several years ago, a group of people was poisoned by vodka. At the time the authorities were considering making amendments to the Law on Anti-Alcoholism, but soon stopped talking about it. Parliament has changed three times since then. We have wasted quite a lot of time.
-What measures will be taken from the working group to set the standards on the operation of nightclubs? For example, the legal age for purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages is 21, but how is it possible to know if one is of legal age? People don’t always keep their IDs with them.
-The president of Mongolia has initiated an “Alcohol-Free Mongolia” campaign and a working group has been established according to a decree set by the Prime Minister. The working group led by Kh. Temuujin, the Minister of Justice and Home Affairs, is operating to reform the legal environment set around alcoholic beverages and to create a standard for the operation of nightclubs. The government’s duty is to enforce the laws and standards. The public’s interest is in fighting against alcoholism and living in healthy and safe environment, while the business sector wants to protect their profit margin. The working group is composed of representatives of all these three groups. We already have the orientation to classify the service organizations in the first place. Actually, restaurants and shops abroad tend to close relatively early. Nightclubs and karaoke bars operate during the night time and pay excise taxes suitable for that. Some states in the USA check the IDs of people to ensure that he or she has reached the age of 21. It is considered that an individual matures in their personal behaviors and responsibilities by the age of 21. Even so, the standards have to be set. We are considering requiring the use of first aid rooms, medicine boxes, taxi services, and a room to detain the drunk and disorderly until the police comes.
There is a clause that states that citizens under 21 shall not be served alcoholic beverages, however, it isn’t obeyed. Now, we can require nightclubs to get CCTVs, or even demand to have an ID scanner installed at the entrances. If nightclubs abide by the rules and standards, this is possible. Nightclubs don’t earn their profits from alcoholic beverages but from their entrance fees. We are considering requiring more responsibility from nightclubs. For example, if a club is serving youth under the legal age, its operation will be suspended for certain months, or even be closed. If such actions are taken, the interest of businessmen to take social responsibility will increase.
-Is it possible to extend the working hours of nightclubs? There are several big nightclubs and bars which arbitrarily work under extended hours and whose owners are influential people.
-During the world football championships, the working hours of public service places are officially permitted to extend. But I think that Mongolian citizens should first be taken into consideration, other than such competitions. It is said that high ranking officials are behind those illegally operating nightclubs.
-Will it continue to be the same until the new law draft is approved?
-Since the current law has already proven to have got no legal and practical capacity, it is necessary that we amend and improve the law. The present law won’t bring about a good outcome, even if it was observed perfectly. But we have to wait until the new law is approved and starts to be implemented.
-I have heard that the nightclubs will have a “risk fund.” Could you expand on this?
-The term, whether it should be called “risk fund” or “social responsibility fund,” hasn’t been decided upon yet. This is a proposal to build up a fund in which public-service places which operate during the night time set aside a certain amount of money. But public organizations have the right to use and spend the fund; not those service places. If bars or nightclubs face risks, damage or losses, it can be compensated from the fund. We hope that businessmen will receive it favorably.

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