Sobercoins: Flemish city to pay first drinks to those who come sober to parties

The city of Balen, near Antwerp, will pay the first three drinks for the young people who arrive sober at the “Jungle Party” this Saturday, April 16, from 9 PM to 11 PM. The plan is part of a programme entitled “Zat? Zeddezot!” (Drunk? Are you crazy?)

The Flemish city is trying to change the “pre-drinking” culture of its youth. In order to save money with alcoholic drinks, many young people drink at home before going to events, which the Flemish city considers that often lead to over-drinking and disorderly behaviour.

To encourage youngsters to arrive sober, the municipality of Balen will be launching “sobercoins” at parties and events in the course of 2022. 

Party-goers may choose to take a breathalyser test before they enter events or nightclubs. If they are sober, the first three drinks are on the house, courtesy of the local municipality.

“Many young people drink too much before the party has even started,” said local Alderman Wim Wouters in a comment to the Belgian newspaper Gazet Van Antwerpen.

“Pre-drinking is associated, among other things, with increased risk of intoxication, binge drinking, drug use, physical complaints and making impulsive, dangerous decisions,” the alderman explained.

Tackling routine behaviour

According to the Balen municipality, research by the Flemish Expertise Centre for Alcohol and Illegal Drugs shows that around 80% of young people pre-drink before going out.

The free drinks tokens, dubbed “sobercoins”, are intended to provide an alternative to pre-drinking at home. People attending parties can now start drinking for free in the venue, instead of at home.

The municipal council is developing a preventative alcohol policy in collaboration with the Balenese catering industry and youth associations. This includes a steering committee for tackling alcohol and drugs.

Previous initiatives started by the Balen municipal council included using coloured wristbands at events to help bartenders easily identify young people’s age. This made it clear who could be drinking and how much.

The results of these sobercoin evenings will be included in the follow-up phase of the project.

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