- Will nitrokeg make such inroads into cask beer that it becomes the standard beer in most pubs? Or can real ale continue to hold its own? The jury is still out on this one...
No, it didn’t, although in many areas it has effectively eradicated real ale from working-class boozers. It wasn’t helped by rapidly acquiring something of a naff image, although, when first introduced, the original 5% Caffrey’s was very trendy and dangerously moreish. I don’t actually think “craft keg” will achieve this either.
- Will the next recession finally bring about the oft-foretold cull of pubs - as it is obvious that many pubs are even now struggling along on very thin trade?
It took the smoking ban to do that, but it certainly has been a massive cull.
- Will the apparently inevitable reduction in the drink-drive limit lead to an upheaval in pub-going habits, and a tidal wave of closures, or just give a slight boost to existing trends?
To widespread surprise, this didn’t happen at the time, and hasn’t since, except in Scotland, although changing attitudes amongst new entrants to the drinking population have brought about many of the predicted effects anyway.
- Will we ever get full measures legislation?
- Can CAMRA continue to be a broad-based consumer movement, or will it metamorphose into what is essentially a club of beer connoisseurs drinking niche products in niche outlets - something of which there are already clear signs today?
It did manage to bring about the end of the duty escalator, which benefited all beer drinkers. But in many areas it does seem to concentrate on handpump-counting and the pursuit of obscurity, and largely ignores ordinary pubs used by non-enthusiasts.
- Will the risks to bar staff of passive smoking lead to pubs being forced to become basically non-smoking, with the option of a separate smoking area? And how will this affect single-room pubs?
The outcome here exceeded even my worst fears. It’s notable how at the time the worry was how smoking curbs might affect one-room pubs. Even in 2005, few seriously expected a blanket ban, and this certainly wasn’t in Labour’s election manifesto of that year.
- Will the gap between British and French beer duty ever be reduced, or will Gordon Brown carry on screwing the British beer drinker regardless of the wider consequences?
No and Yes. And we all know what the result was.
- Or will the European Union start taking an interest in alcohol from a health standpoint (as it does with tobacco) leading to upward, not downward, harmonisation of duties?
Hasn’t really happened. The UK still pays 40% of all beer duty in the EU despite only drinking 12% of the beer. Of course it’s academic following the referendum, as they can now stick any harmonisation where the sun doesn’t shine.
- Will the health concerns which have affected the tobacco industry now increasingly be redirected at the drinks trade, making 1997 in retrospect the high water mark of a liberal licensing and taxation climate?
Yes, with a vengeance, although the high water mark was probably the implementation of the 2003 Licensing Act in 2005.
So, overall, not such an inaccurate set of speculations.
Incidentally, for those reading this on mobiles, don’t forget to answer my poll on allowing under-14s into the bars of pubs.