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Nhậu Places Respond to Drunk Driving Law With Their Own Transport Services

In response to a decline in customers following stricter laws regarding driving after drinking, bars and restaurants across the country are offering transportation services for patrons. 

On January 1, Vietnam enacted legislation that makes operating any motorbike, car or bicycle with a blood alcohol level over zero illegal. Tuoi Tre reports that establishments serving alcohol have since introduced a variety of services to allow customers to drink and return home without breaking the law. 

Car drivers who drive while drunk can be fined up to VND40 million and have their license revoked for two years, while motorbike drivers can be fined VND8 million and also lose their license, according to the new law on drunk driving.

The strict penalties are aimed at curbing Vietnam's high drunk driving rates and ensuing traffic accidents. More than two-thirds of drinkers prefer to drive themselves home after drinking, so when faced with the consequences of the new law, some have opted to avoid going out to drink altogether.

The effects of skipping the suds sessions have hit local businesses hard, as exemplified by one Da Nang seafood restaurant whose owner claims his business has fallen by 30% in the new year on account of reduced customers. Other watering holes note that people are switching to cheaper soft drinks and going home earlier.

A notice at a beer place in Thu Duc offering to take drunk patrons home.

To entice customers to continue imbibing, bars and restaurants are offering to drive customers home, and in some cases providing discounts for ride-hailing services or taxis and allowing for overnight parking. A beer joint in Thu Duc has mobilized some staff members to help intoxicated patrons home.

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

“We will have to raise our cost of operations to cover these services, but we have to keep our customers coming to stay in business," said Dang Thai Hien, owner of a nhậu place in Can Tho.

Between January 1, when nationwide enforcement of the law began, and January 4, 668 drunk drivers were fined a total of roughly VND890 million (US$38,350), according to Nguyen Quang Nhat, an officer with the traffic police department under the Ministry of Public Security. Saigon alone saw 200 cases of motorists driving after drinking by January 6. 

While critics contend the laws are too strict or ineffective, officials are quick to point out that similar laws are more severe in many other countries, and can include jail time. Moreover, to further address the issue, the penalties are also supported by education efforts, stringent regulations on advertising, and alcohol tax increases. Authorities have admitted that corruption remains a concern with the new laws and that public transportation needs to be improved to make following them easier.

[Photo: Outside a nhậu spot on Hoang Sa Street/Photo is only for illustration purpose]