Curmudgeon's "Opening Times" Column - July 2006

* Too Big for its Boots? *

Football is given more importance in pubs than the business it brings in deserves

I recently called in at a pub on Sunday lunchtime in the expectation of a quiet pint, and was disappointed to find that the entire interior apart from the restaurant had been given over to showing a large-screen football match on Sky, with the curtains drawn. Needless to say, I took my custom elsewhere. At a time when Premier League attendances are slipping and many are complaining that the game has become predictable and defensive, you have to wonder whether pubs are over-estimating the amount of business that live football brings in.

The World Cup has seen many pubs festooned with football paraphernalia and running promotions to tempt fans in. However, the viewing figures for anything but major finals suggest that a large majority of adults prefer to do something else, and it’s likely that many quieter customers will be put off by even a handful of rowdy fans. Football has its place, but when it ends up taking over entire pubs it is getting too big for its boots, and overall is likely to be bad for business. This is another reason, of course, to bring back the traditional multi-roomed pub where a variety of activities can take place at the same time.

* What a Lot of Bottles *

A vast range of bottle sizes simply confuses drinkers

There’s now a bewildering choice of bottled beers available in supermarkets and specialist off-licences, ranging from the sublime to the worthless. And something that has struck me is that there is also a bewildering variety of bottle sizes – in recent months I have seen 250 ml, 275 ml, 300 ml, 330 ml, 375 ml, 450 ml, 500 ml, 550 ml, 568 ml, 600 ml, 660 ml, 750 ml and 1 litre, not to mention the standard cans of 440 ml.

This can make it difficult to get the amount you want – there may be a beer you like, but find a 750 ml bottle is too much to drink all at once, or it may seem ridiculous to have to open two small bottles to get anywhere near a pint. It also makes it harder to compare prices between different beers, and may cause a problem by making it well-nigh impossible to work out exactly how much you’ve had to drink.

Surely it would make sense to adopt 500 ml bottles as the effective standard, as they already usually are for British bottled ales, with 330 ml being used for strong beers of over 6.5% ABV. If there really is a demand for different sizes, then by all means sell them, but as well as the usual size, not instead. Nobody complains that pubs should have to sell draught beers in standard measures, and it would benefit the consumer if the same applied to bottles.

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