Under 23? Stay away after 9

Hawgs Breath sets age limit for weekends

By Josh Howald

If you’re under the age of 23, stay away from the Hawgs Breath Saloon on weekends.

The local establishment has instituted a rule banning those under the age of 23 on weekends after 9 p.m.

It’s a preventative measure really, says Laura Doerr, who with Brian Doerr has run the Kincardine business since 1996. No serious incidents have happened at the Hawgs Breath, but “the anticipation has been there.”

After the Bruce Bar and Grill reformatted itself to the Bruce Steakhouse and Club 750, young people had been flooding the saloon looking for a place to drink.

“Some nights we would have 100 people lined up to get in, and we only seat 60,” said Doerr. “Then we have to tell them they can’t come in and there is a bad feeling in the air.”

The Hawgs Breath is well within its right to allow whomever it chooses past the front doors. Many city bars have a 25 and over policy, and the Doerrs say they have been commended by the South-Bruce OPP for their policy.

“It’s not something we entered into lightly,” said Laura. “It’s tough because we want the business, and it isn’t smart to be turning people away. But we’ve worked hard and we want to provide a safe atmosphere for our clientele and our staff.”

They were debating on whether to restrict access to those under 21 or those under 25. They eventually settled on 23 years of age.

Stricter Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (ACGO) rules put more responsibility on bar owners, and the Doerrs say they are liable for everything that happens in the bar and around the premises of the Queen Street building. An incident occurred in front of the Hawgs Breath in late January after the bar had closed, and the Doerrs were forced to get involved due to new ACGO guidelines.

Since the Bruce has closed its dance floor, the liquor inspector has visited the Hawgs Breath three times, and the owners say there is too much at risk by allowing the younger crowd in the saloon. They opened the tavern when both the Bruce and Gilley’s catered to a younger crowd with DJs and dance floors.

“We opened for, I don’t want to call our customers older, but that’s who we’re here for. It’s not unusual to have the ladies from the Malcolm Place up for a glass of wine. The young ones don’t listen. We tell them not to take a beer outside and they do. We don’t have to tell their parents that.”

Kelsey Burrows, a 19-year-old Kincardine native who attends school in Waterloo, said she was disappointed with the decision, but can understand where they are coming from.

“I haven’t gone in there since hearing about it (the ban),” said Burrows Friday morning. “I think it’s too bad that some people have ruined it for everybody by fighting or causing trouble, whatever the case. Not everyone our age gets out of control when they drink. It’s a nice bar and it’s really too bad we can’t frequent it anymore.”

The Doerrs said the younger crowd has disappeared since the rule was posted on the door three weeks ago, but “I’m sure there are some people not too happy with us.”

Bayley Dunlop, a 19-year-old Brock University student, is one of them.

“It’s somewhere I go with my family and friends when I come home from school,” she said Friday. “As a 19-year-old girl I don’t think I’m doing anything but giving them business. If they have a problem with a select few, they should ban those people and not everyone under 23. You are punishing people that have done nothing but benefit you. It was somewhere I liked going for lunch, and now I won’t do that because I won’t give them my business.”

But Doerr also has her other weekend clientele to think about.

She said the regular customers have been getting concerned over the past few months about the crowds, atmosphere and language in the Hawgs Breath.

“There are a lot of good kids that age, and I feel bad for them,” said Doerr, “but we have a lot at stake. I’m not sure people realize just how much liability we have as licence holders. It goes on and on, and new rules are always incoming.”

“It’s too bad,” said Burrows. “If you’re near the downtown and walking, there’s really nowhere else to go anymore.”