Not surprisingly, the anti-drink lobby were up in arms, claiming that it was irresponsible marketing targeting the most vulnerable in society. Funny that, when a pint at £1.50 is about 70p a unit, well above their proposed minimum alcohol price. This gives further credence to the intention – set out in the Sheffield University research that is used to support minimum pricing – of having differential minimum prices for the on- and off-trades. And I don’t see them picketing Wetherspoon’s and Sam Smith’s pubs.
Obviously those two operators do good business from offering prices conspicuously lower than most of the competition, but their establishments also tend to have a reasonable level of creature comforts and, particularly with Sam’s, a kind of camaraderie that produces a distinctive pubby buzz. A pub where cheapness is the only attraction is unlikely to attract many punters and also risks being a magnet for the kind of people whose company you might prefer to avoid. So time will tell whether this proves to be a successful business concept.
If it does take off, as with the widely-reported rise of micropubs, it might indicate that there is a latent and unsatisfied demand for old-fashioned drink-and-chat pubs that don’t succumb to the multiple temptations of loud music, screaming kids, TV football and wall-to-wall dining.
Of course, there is one rather obvious way in which the trade of small, no-frills, wet-led pubs could be dramatically revived. What a pity the government continues to turn a deaf ear.
Incidentally, I love the description of micropubs in Zythophile’s blogpost that I linked to as “five grumpy old men in a 10ft square space”.