Curmudgeon's "Opening Times" Column - February 2006
Restrictions on on-trade consumption now pose a real threat to the traditional pub
A couple of months ago, I referred to the growth of anti-pub and anti-drink sentiment in society, and suggested that if we ever reached a situation where it was considered socially unacceptable to consume more than three pints in one session, then there would be precious little future for the traditional pub. Not surprisingly, the head-in-the-sand brigade dismissed this as exaggeration and scaremongering. But, lo and behold, within a couple of weeks of those comments being published, up pops Professor John Smith, the President of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh, saying that he believes that, as a means of curbing excess consumption, pubs and bars should be prevented from serving their customers more than three drinks on one visit.
Obviously, there are serious practical difficulties with this, as people can always move on to another bar once they have had their quota, and it does nothing to address the issue of at-home drinking. But when respected professors are saying such things without being immediately howled down as swivel-eyed loons, these ideas have entered the mainstream, and it would be a grave mistake to ignore them on the grounds that “it will never happen here.” Many of our freedoms have already been extinguished in a way that a generation ago seemed unthinkable. And it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that some of the dining pub chains will take up this idea as a way of promoting an image of social responsibility. They won’t ban it, not at first, but a message of “sensible drinkers combine alcohol with food, and don’t go beyond three” could work wonders in terms of public perception. This policy has already been implemented on a voluntary basis in some parts of the USA, and all too often, where America leads in politically correct nannying, Britain follows.
Professor Smith goes on to say “it is the logical follow-up to banning smoking in pubs and other public places”. This completely gives the lie to the claim of the anti-tobacco zealots that the campaigns against tobacco and alcohol have nothing in common, and reveals only too clearly that they are two sides of the same coin. Once one domino is knocked over, they move on to the next.
Transport details given for many pubs reflect a politically correct dreamworld
A recent issue of “Opening Times” offered the following instructions on how to reach the Hanging Gate in Higher Sutton:
“To get there by public transport, take the Arriva Number 14 Langley Service from Macclesfield and alight at Sutton Village. Cross over the road, down Church Lane, bear right into Judy Lane, follow this to the end turning right again onto Ridge Hill. This eventually leads on to Meg Lane. At the end turn right and follow the road into Cophurst Lane, where the pub is situated. Allow at least an hour for this.”
Pardon me for thinking that the bar staff are not exactly going to be knocked over in the stampede. When are CAMRA publications going to abandon this ludicrous waltz of political correctness and acknowledge that a large majority of customers of country pubs like the Hanging Gate are going to travel there by car, and vanishingly few of them will break the law by doing so?