Vietnam bars offer drinkers a ride home

By News from Elsewhere... found by BBC Monitoring

image copyrightHOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images
image captionDrinkers face hefty fines under new road safety rules

Bars in Vietnam have come up with a creative way to get patrons home safely since tough new drink-driving laws came in over the New Year.

Beer halls have started to offer their own transport services, as many drinkers are wary of the hefty fines they face if they take to their cars, motorbikes or even bicycles while under the influence, the Tuoi Tre newspaper reports.

The new law stipulates that drivers must be "completely sober while operating vehicles", on pain of much higher fines than before, as well as running the risk of having their driving licenses revoked for up to two years.

The traffic police are not easing drivers gently into the New Year, either, as they imposed fines worth a total of $38,350 (£29,000) on 668 drunk road-users in the first four days of January alone, the Ministry of Public Security told the VnExpress paper.

Many Vietnamese now prefer to skip a night down the bar to avoid a big hit on their wallets.

Numbers are certainly down significantly at one bar on Pham Van Dong Street in Ho Chi Minh City, where the manager told Tuoi Tre that guests are opting for water or soft drinks over beer - even at traditionally bibulous wedding parties.

"I believe the situation is the same at beer halls across country," he added.

Not only bars are suffering. Nguyen Truong Tai said sales of alcoholic drinks were down 20-30% in the past week at his seafood restaurant in the central city of Da Nang.

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Providing transport is one solution, and one bar in the Thu Duc District of Ho Chi Minh City has put up an eye-catching poster advertising its new service.

"We have a team of employees to take you home. All you have to do is enjoy your time with friends and family at our restaurant. Your safety is our top priority," the ad reads.

The manager, Mr Phat, says his staff will ferry customers home by car or motorbike, or help them book a cab or motorbike taxi "if all of our employees are occupied during peak hours".

Price rises

Some venues in Thu Duc let customers leave their vehicles overnight if they choose to catch a taxi home, but no one can beat bar owner Dang Thai Hien in the southern city of Can Tho, who has hired two new employees to provide free rides home for her lucky customers.

"We are planning to organise free transport services for our guests with local cab and motorbike taxi drivers," she told Tuoi Tre.

But there is one catch - higher prices all round.

"We have to keep our customers coming to stay in business, so we will have to raise the cost of operations to cover these services," Ms Hien said.

image copyrightHOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images
image captionMind how you go

Reporting by Martin Morgan

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