Curmudgeon's "Opening Times" Column - June 1996
* Denim Blues *
There's been a lot of debate in the press about the refusal of the newly-opened King's Ransom in Sale to admit people wearing jeans. This kind of policy might be OK for a top-class restaurant, but for a so-called public house it's just not on. So long as people's clothes are clean and decent, why should they be excluded? What right have pubs got to discriminate on the grounds of dress sense?
It's not even as if the supposed objective of the policy - to keep out troublemakers - works, either. Many responsible people who have to wear formal clothes at work prefer to dress casually when going out for a relaxing drink, while an awful lot of yobboes and yobettes wouldn't be seen dead in denim. For God's sake, Marks & Spencer are the country's biggest retailers of jeans!
The way to keep out undesirables is intelligent, flexible door control, not a rigid and inappropriate dress code. Any pub which applies this ludicrous and ineffective policy is declaring clearly that it wants to attract a clientele of posers, and should be avoided by all sensible people.
* The Lost Generation *
Over the years, a great deal of effort has been expended on encouraging the under-25's to become active in CAMRA. By and large, this has been a complete waste of time. CAMRA activists under 25 are as rare as good pints of Webster's. So is the right policy to try even harder, or to take a step back and rethink the strategy?
Young people tend to be very fickle in their allegiances, particularly to consumer brands. The flavour of the month counts for everything. They are also very resistant to being told what to do by their elders. These factors combined make them very unreceptive to CAMRA's message.
The appreciation of the finer things in life, from malt whisky to Mercedes-Benz motor cars, generally comes with maturity. By no means should CAMRA ignore the young, but it shouldn't be too worried about the lack of them in its ranks. Let them guzzle Ice Beer today, because with time they will grow out of it.
If any age group is to be targeted, should it be the "active retired"? They are often enthusiastic and long-standing consumers of real ale, and are likely to have the time and the experience to be highly effective campaigners. Yet they too are under-represented amongst the active members of the organisation, who consist overwhelmingly of the 30-50 age group. To kindle their enthusiasm, maybe more emphasis is needed on the civilised pleasures of the pub, and less on marathon crawls and rowdy stand-up beer festivals.
* Ash and Trash *
So long as it doesn't take over the whole pub, I'm all in favour of giving drinkers the choice of a no-smoking area. But something which is generally overlooked is what to do with all the other assorted rubbish people normally put in ashtrays. By the end of the evening, tables can be awash with discarded crisp packets, serviettes, toothpicks and bus tickets.
Landlords - by all means get rid of the ashtrays, but please provide litter bins instead to help keep your pubs tidy.