This is just an open thread about the current poll “What gives you a positive feeling about a pub?”
It’s interesting to see that the obvious answer, “a real fire”, has currently been voted for by all respondents.
Well, the poll on “What do you personally find offputting in pubs?” has finally closed, with no less than 115 responses, which is by a large margin a record for any poll on this blog apart from the s*****g b*n one.
The results were:
1. Noisy children: 95 (83%)
2= Karaoke: 75 (65%)
2= Wall-to-wall diners: 75 (65%)
4. Big screen sports: 62 (54%)
5. Slow service: 60 (52%)
6. Lack of cleanliness: 59 (51%)
7= Drunk customers: 49 (42%)
7= Unable to smoke indoors: 49 (42%)
7= Unwelcoming regulars: 49 (42%)
10. Warm beer: 44 (38%)
11. Uncomfortable seating: 24 (21%)
12. Dogs: 20 (17%)
I’m not surprised to see “Noisy children” top the poll, as in my experience this must be the biggest no-no in pubs. At opposite ends of the social scale, both “Karaoke” and “Wall-to-wall diners” send out a clear signal that, for many people, this is not their type of pub. It’s good to see “Dogs” at the bottom, as I never really understand the objection to well-behaved dogs in pubs (which I find they almost always are). Surprised to see “Uncomfortable seating” so low, though, as, however good the beer, if I can’t find somewhere comfortable to sit, I won’t stay for another.
As you’ll see, the “mirror image” poll is now up and running. I’ve taken on board some of your suggestions, although surely “good beer” and “good food” should be taken as read. So it didn’t get too big, I rejected the ideas of:
Etched or frosted windows
No food served
Oversize lined glasses
This will be an interesting poll as I really have no idea of how it will turn out. It’s worth drawing your attention to Curmudgeon’s Ideal Pub, written ten years ago, and still largely holding true, although one key point is now impossible because of legislation.
The Sunday Telegraph reports that, in the forthcoming budget, Alistair Darling is planning to increase alcohol duties by even more than the swingeing “alcohol duty escalator”, with the potential of a staggering £8 a bottle rise in the duty on spirits. Of course, that won’t happen, but it’s not hard to see a £2 a bottle increase. I’m sure the pensioners who enjoy a nightcap of Tesco’s own brand Scotch will appreciate that. Any above-inflation duty increase will also be yet another kick in the teeth for the beleaguered pub trade. I wonder what the risible Minister for Pubs will have to say about that. Well, I don’t actually, it will be nothing.
“Ninety per cent of people who come into my pub want to smoke, even the non-smokers think there should be a choice. These laws are ridiculous.”Leg-iron deals with this on his blog far more effectively than I could ever hope to do. And Chris Snowdon points out that, even within the context of the law, this was a disproportionate sentence designed to make an example of him.
There’s a quite astonishing statement from Home Office Minister Gillian Merron that the smoking ban has not resulted in pub closures.
Merron said: “The pub trade does have challenges and I am aware of that but it isn’t the case that the ban had led to pub closures.”Really? Not even a single one? This completely flies in the face of the vast weight of anecdotal evidence that the ban has had a severe impact on the trade of pubs, and the statements from virtually every brewer and pub company reporting their results that the smoking ban has hit their profits. It is given short shrift by Mark Daniels who by his own admission isn’t the most diehard opponent of the ban:
The smoking ban has certainly caused most pubs, especially those that were traditional drinking outlets (like mine, for example), a lot of pain - and it has caused a lot to close, too.He also makes the very salient point that the ban has made the trade of pubs much more dependent on fine weather than it used to be.
To say it hasn't is, frankly, ridiculous and shows a severe lack of knowledge of the problems the pub trade is facing right now.
A leading economist has warned that minimum pricing in Scotland could lead to cross-border shopping.
Doh, you don’t say! I’d never have imagined that might happen without the help of a leading economist.
The latest anti-drink horror story in the Daily Wail is that a majority of children are introduced to alcoholic drinks at home, and this alleged problem is worse in white middle-class families. You just can’t win, really – if a majority began drinking in the pub or on a park bench that would be cause for even more outrage. Surely it should be seen as a positive factor that young people have their first drink in a controlled environment under adult supervision. And it is disingenuous to refer to them as “underage drinkers”, when drinking alcohol under the age of 18 at home is a perfectly legal activity. The article concludes: “Successive studies have shown that the younger someone starts drinking, the more they consume throughout their lives.” Umm, isn’t that a statement of the bleeding obvious?
There’s been a lot of talk this week about introducing compulsory “health” labelling on alcoholic drinks packages. There was an interesting report of SAB Miller ceasing to import one of their beer brands (it doesn’t say which) because they didn’t think it was practical to include the necessary labelling elements on the bottles. This underlines how such a scheme might have the unintended consequence of leading to a reduction in the variety of drinks available in the UK.
Mandatory labelling imposes an extra burden on small producers entering the market, and it is likely to deter people from importing low-volume specialist drinks, whether beers, wines or spirits, as they will have to either spend money redesigning the labels or put unsightly extra stickers on bottles or cans. And does it really matter in terms of the overall message that a handful of small-selling products don’t have the labels when the vast majority, including all the big brands, do? As an example, I have just opened a bottle of O’Hanlon’s Port Stout, a well-respected bottle-conditioned beer from a Devon micro-brewery. It doesn’t have any kind of health message at all.
You also have to wonder whether the European Union might regard a UK-only mandatory labelling scheme as a violation of the internal single market.
It doesn’t help that the contents of the labels are highly questionable anyway – the official unit guidelines, as I have pointed out on here before, were plucked out of thin air without any scientific justification, and neither is there any scientific evidence that drinking small quantities of alcohol will harm unborn babies. The recommendation that expectant mothers should abstain from alcohol entirely was adopted because it was clear and simple, not because it was true.
And, of course, as we have seen with tobacco, mandatory labels will inevitably be the start of a slippery slope. They will get bigger, they will have to appear on the front of bottles, they will have to appear on wine lists and menus, they will have to appear on adverts, they will have to be prominently displayed on all bars, they will have to include pictures of diseased livers. And so it goes on.
I recently concluded a poll asking the question “Do you keep a record of your alcohol consumption?” There were 43 responses, broken down as follows:
Yes, as accurately as I can: 2 (5%)
Yes, in an approximate way: 14 (32%)
Occasionally for a week or two: 4 (9%)
No, but perhaps I should: 2 (5%)
No, I wouldn’t dream of it: 15 (35%)
I can never remember how much I’ve had anyway: 6 (14%)
A very clear division of opinion there, with “Yes, in an approximate way” and “No, I wouldn’t dream of it” being by far the most popular options. While it will take away much of the enjoyment of drinking by reducing it to a dry unit-counting calculation, on the other hand if you do have an interest in alcoholic drinks it probably makes sense to ensure you don’t let it get out of hand. And if you have a driving licence, even if you take the view that you never drink anything immediately before driving, it is in your own interest to keep tabs on your consumption.
It’s reported that a decade of government spending on healthy eating advice has had a negligible effect on people’s real-world diets.
People are eating as badly as they were 10 years ago despite the spending of hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on advertising campaigns on fruit and vegetables, saturated fat and other health issues, the Government’s food watchdog admitted yesterday.No doubt the Righteous will be dismayed by this news, but surely it reveals a healthy scepticism about official health messages, which is paralleled by the response to propaganda about the evils of drinking and smoking.
In a nationwide nutrition survey, the Food Standards Agency found that the majority of people were still eating too many processed foods and sweets and not enough oily fish and fresh fruit and vegetables. Adults ate twice as much sausages as white fish, and boys almost equalled their consumption of salad and other raw vegetables with chocolate. Teenagers ate five times as much white as wholemeal bread.
The survey suggests that the Government has made little headway in reducing the diet-related ill-health, which the Cabinet Office estimated last year costs 70,000 lives and £6billion to the NHS annually.
Interesting news from Scotland that the SNP’s minimum pricing policy is apparently being pushed ahead without any firm evidence of its effects.
One of the scientists whose research has underpinned the Scottish Government's push to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol admitted yesterday there is no evidence to show the controversial policy would work.Also some telling comments from Richard Marsh of Verso Economics:
Sheffield University senior lecturer Dr Petra Meier told Holyrood's health committee the effects of the SNP's minimum pricing policy were "like the weather forecast" because her work was just "a model" of what might happen.
Her comments came as the committee considers the first stage of the Scottish Government's Alcohol Bill and they have raised further doubts about the value of the Sheffield University study into drinking in Scotland, which SNP ministers have claimed proves the case for introducing minimum pricing.
Mr Marsh also suggested that if minimum pricing at a rate of 40p per unit was to be introduced north of the Border, moderate drinkers would face increased spending in the region of £23.8 million a year against a saving to the economy in terms of health spending of just £5.9m.
I recently concluded a poll asking the question: “At what age did you first have an alcoholic drink in a pub?” There were 72 responses, and the answers were as follows:
14 or under: 18 (25%)
15: 15 (21%)
16: 21 (29%)
17: 11 (15%)
18: 4 (6%)
Over 18: 3 (4%)
So 90% of respondents had actually drunk in a pub before the legal age of 18, with 46%, or nearly half, having had a drink at 15 or under. Only 6% had postponed having a drink until the year they had turned 18, while a mere 4% were late developers. No doubt these results would send Don Shenker and Sir Liam Donaldson into a fit of apoplexy, but, as Tim Martin has argued, there is a huge amount of hypocrisy in society when many adults in responsible positions admit to having drunk in pubs before they were 18, and say it helped with their growing up and socialisation, while at the same time doing their utmost to stop today’s young people doing the same.
While it would be unthinkable in the current climate to lower the legal drinking age, surely there is much to be said for often turning a blind eye to young people having the odd drink in pubs so long as they behave themselves. Learning to drink under the watchful eye of potentially disapproving adults must be far better than doing it purely with your own age group in parks or friends’ bedrooms. It is a classic example of making a problem worse by clamping down hard on it.
Edit: I am now going to keep the most recent closed polls at the bottom of the left-hand sidebar so you can see I haven't fiddled the results ;-)
There’s an excellent article on this week’s Sp!ked by Dolan Cummings entitled The first step: admit drinking is normal, in which he argues that the way to develop a healthy drinking culture is actually to treat drinking as a normal part of everyday life rather than denormalising it and pushing it to the margins:
Proposals to introduce minimum pricing give the lie to the idea that health and government officials are interested in ‘responsible drinking’. There is nothing responsible about limiting your drinking according to your budget. ‘How many units can I get for a fiver?’ is not a question a cultured drinker asks, and yet this is precisely the mentality being encouraged by today’s scientistic crusade against booze. In a healthy drinking culture, we drink as much as we like, and ‘too much’ is defined not by our wallets but by our experience and the demands of our non-drinking lives. A unit-counting, penny-pinching drink culture would make alcoholics of us all.
No doubt many people do drink unhealthy amounts, particularly in Scotland and run-down working class areas across Britain. But the problem is not drink as such, nor even a broader ‘drinking culture’, but rather the hopelessness and lack of control over circumstances that drives people to drink destructively -even if they don’t live in sink estates...
Today’s moralism about drink does not offer salvation, but instead needless guilt and shabby authoritarianism. It is precisely because they have no inspiring vision for society that politicians turn their sights on our drinking habits. But we should not allow deeper social problems to be viewed through the prism of drink, and we should certainly not allow an aspect of life that for most of us means pleasure and conviviality to be transformed into a social problem in its own right. Drinking is nothing to be ashamed of, and we should stop pretending we think it is.
A recent survey by Mintel has shown that many people resent paying high prices for soft drinks in pubs:
Three in five adults said they resented paying so much for soft drinks in pubs when they know they can get it much cheaper in shops. Over-45s were particularly critical on this issue – and the report says the “grey pound” will become increasingly important for pubs.But do people reasonably expect to buy alcoholic drinks in pubs for the same price as in Tesco? Or meals? So why should it be any different for soft drinks? The naïve notion that everything has a “fair” price based on its purchase cost, and that pricing should take no account of customers’ willingness to pay, remains very prevalent in society.
It was announced today that the government aim to impose another round of draconian restrictions in a bid to halve the number of smokers by 2020. Any bets on how long before they announce their strategy to halve the number of so-called binge drinkers?
You also have to wonder how they plan to make up the shortfall from lower tobacco duty receipts. Halving the number of smokers would reduce revenue by a whacking £3.8 billion a year.
Apparently the average consumption per head at CAMRA beer festivals is 3.5 pints. This figure has often been viewed as surprisingly low, but in fact, if you assume the average strength of beer at such events is 4.5% ABV, it equates to 9 units of alcohol and thus, by the current reckoning, qualifies as a “binge”. And, of course, roughly half the punters will be drinking more than that.
A few months ago I referred to a CAMRA pub crawl around Stockport Market Place, which involved visiting 8 pubs. If someone only had a half in each pub, and the average strength of beer consumed was 4.0%, that again adds up to 9 units. And in reality, most of the participants would have had a pint in at least one or two of the pubs. In the old days, when there were more pubs, more of them served real ale, and people were younger and fitter, such crawls could cover 12 or 13 pubs.
CAMRA often highlights the role of the “well-run community pub” in promoting responsible drinking. But if you went in any such establishment at 10.45 pm on any night of the week, you would undoubtedly find a high proportion of the customers had drunk more than eight units over the course of the evening.
Now let me make it crystal clear than I don’t disapprove of any of this, and if you’re only doing it a couple of nights a week it’s not realistically going to do you any harm. But of course Don Shenker and Sir Liam Donaldson would be aghast at such a tidal wave of irresponsible consumption. And you can just imagine the hysterical Daily Mail exposé: “They say they support responsible drinking – but in fact they’re routinely encouraging bingeing!”
It is a fact of life that pretty much all the activities of CAMRA are centred around drinking at levels that exceed the current official (made-up) guidelines. The leadership of the organisation must be fully aware of this. But they do have to tread very carefully not to lay themselves open to accusations of hypocrisy in championing the pub as the home of responsible drinking. And it underlines very clearly that you cannot effectively combat the rise of anti-alcohol sentiment while adopting the politically correct terms of reference of the Righteous – you have to challenge the whole basis of the argument.
This perhaps helps explain why CAMRA has been much less outspoken than many would wish over the rise of neo-Prohibitionism. But they are going to have to think very hard about it – it isn’t just going to go away and leave them alone.
"The era of big, bossy, state interference, top-down lever pulling is coming to an end." (David Cameron, 2008)
"The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all." (H. L. Mencken)
"The final nails have now been hammered into the coffin of the freedom to smoke in enclosed public places. This piece of legislation must be one of the most restrictive, spiteful and socially divisive imposed by any British Government. (Lord Stoddart of Swindon)
"Raising taxes on alcohol to prevent problem drinking is akin to raising the price of gasoline to prevent people from speeding." (Edward Peter Stringham)
"People who deal only in 'craft' beer do not care about some dirty old pub and the dirty old people who are in it and the dirty old community that it holds together." (Boozy Procrastinator)
"There's a saying that, given time, all organisations end up as if they were run by a conspiracy of their foes." (Rhys Jones)
"A Puritan is someone who lives in mortal fear that somewhere, sometime, someone is enjoying himself." (H. L. Mencken)
"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming 'Wow! What a Ride!" (Hunter S. Thompson)
"No pleasure is worth giving up for the sake of two more years in a geriatric home at Weston-super-Mare." (Kingsley Amis)
"When you have lost your inns, drown your empty selves,
For you will have lost the last of England." (Hilaire Belloc)