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Pub crawl bus regulations under review

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Students and drinkers may have to mourn the end of unregulated pub crawl party buses.

A task force comprised of police, fire, city and Alcohol Gaming and Liquor Commission officials are looking at regulating party buses due to concerns about on-board drinking, lewd behaviour and aggressive crowds.

Party buses are used for pub crawls, bachelor parties and Stampede parties. The city's regulation talks have been greeted with mixed reactions from party bus companies like Deamon Events and Party Planning Inc.

Deamon president Dean Montalbetti explained his company is open to working with the City of Calgary to deal with safety issues. The city hasn't proposed regulations yet.

Montalbetti urged pub crawl managers to work together on patron safety by ensuring that there is no drinking on buses, not too many people on board and that all drivers are properly licensed.

Montalbetti explained his company's buses already undergo safety inspections and his company completes yearly Operating Authority and Safety Fitness Certificate applications to ensure all appropriate steps for safety are taken.

"We at Deamon believe that the party bus industry doesn't have to be an unsafe one," he said. "The industry has a bit of a bad reputation, despite many companies having a commitment to safety and despite deterring thousands of people from driving after leaving a bar."

Ward 10 Alderman Andre Chabot, who sits on the public safety task force, greeted Montalbetti's comments with skepticism.

Chabot suggested that the city license pub crawl buses under the Livery Transport bylaw, which covers licences for taxis and limousines. The city could regulate permitted activities as well as requirements for safety.

He explained that he is concerned about indecent exposure and other patron behavior, as well as multiple buses dropping off aggressive drunk patrons in one spot leading to riots.

Chabot is also concerned about the patrons' safety due to the questionable nature of old buses often used for pub crawls.

He pointed out that independent companies often buy up old equipment without paying attention to their condition.

"Things rust over time and if the transportation companies are willing to sell their old units at reduced costs, we need to ask about how safe they are [and] who is responsible for inspecting them," explained Chabot.

No matter what option Calgary is considering, it will have to manage without help from AGLC.

AGLC communications manager Christine Wronko said they don't license these buses because of their questionable nature.

"The important thing one needs to remember is if any liquor is served or consumed on a party bus, that would be in violation of the Gaming and Liquor Act which would be enforced by the police," said Wronko. "We work with the Calgary Police Service and the Fire Service to inspect licensed establishments to ensure they are complying with the regulations, but pub crawl buses aren't the same as bars and pubs."

Fourth-year engineering student Danny Ellis doesn't see the point in regulating the behaviour of patrons on these buses, adding that the only problem he saw was rowdiness common in bars and pubs.

"I can understand there is a need to regulate the safety of the buses themselves, as most of them are just old school buses," said Ellis. "But to regulate the drinking on them, that should be completely up to the companies that own the buses."

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