Curmudgeon's "Opening Times" Column - October 2002
Many pubs that claim to open all day fail to take advantage of the full permitted hours
Looking round a well-pubbed town just before 12 noon, I noticed that most of the pubs still had their doors firmly shut. Many pubs advertise themselves as being “open all day”, and yet fail to take advantage of the full permitted hours available to them, which allow them to serve alcohol from 11 am.
There is still a strange prejudice in this country against having a drink before the sun has crossed the yardarm, as if it’s the first step on the road to ending up in the gutter twelve hours later. Yet many moderate, sensible drinkers, such as those taking a break from shopping, or wanting a pint before their lunch, may wish to use pubs before noon. Wetherspoon’s are an honourable exception, as all their pubs open promptly at 11 am, and are often surprisingly busy well before noon, proving that the demand does exist.
Lunchtime closing may be a short-sighted policy
One well known, and in many respects very good, local pub stays firmly shut at lunchtimes, seven days a week. That’s fair enough if there’s little trade to be had, and it gives the licensees the opportunity to combine running a pub with doing another job, which may be the key to survival for many smaller pubs.
But licensees shouldn’t underestimate the amount of trade to be gained at lunchtimes. I mentioned above how many Wetherspoons were busy before noon, even those not in major town centres. Many retired people much prefer going to the pub at lunchtime rather than in the evening, and I’ve come across some pubs that are like a pensioners’ social centre in the afternoon. People nowadays are less likely to work regular, 9-5 hours, so more working people will be around in the daytime. Also, new customers, especially those from outside the immediate area, are more likely to seek out pubs for the first time during the day.
Pubs must be careful that they don’t start to deter potential customers by gaining a reputation for scarcely ever being open. One word of mouth report that “I went there and it was shut at half-past one” could put off a lot of people. And one person I was speaking to genuinely believed that the pub I referred to before had closed completely, as he had never found it open on several visits. Licensees might take that as a warning. There are also few pubs that would not benefit from displaying clearly outside exactly what hours they are open.
Can a responsible person ever be seen with an alcoholic drink in their hand?
Twelve people from my workplace went out to the pub one Friday for someone’s birthday. Apart from myself and one other, it was a round of ten Diet Cokes, including one for the person who was supposed to be celebrating. Anyone would think that a pint of bitter or a glass of wine would have them throwing up over the boss or copying their backsides on the photocopier. Is it any wonder that the licensed trade and the brewing industry are in such a bad way?