The latest government “initiative” to try to discourage binge-drinking is to suggest that people shouldn’t buy drinks in rounds, but instead groups of drinkers should set up a tab and settle it at the end of the evening. Now, while it can happen that the round-buying system pressurises people into drinking more than they ideally want to, I don’t honestly see it as a major factor in increasing overall consumption. And if you asked to set up a tab in the Gungesmearers’ Arms, you would be met with bemused laughter. They wouldn’t be much more accommodating in your average Spoons. You can also imagine a lot of drunken arguments at the end of the evening over who has paid for that - after all, it’s notoriously difficult to split the bill fairly in the curry house.
What is more, this is yet another example of pointing the finger at pubs when they certainly can’t be held exclusively responsible for our supposed drink-related problems. It’s a naïve, Puritanical throwback to the days of Lloyd George, when the buying of drinks for others was banned, even to the extent of preventing a husband buying one for his wife.