Sunday, 11 August 2019

Very early doors

The determined band of drinkers who assemble in Wetherspoon’s at 9 am are often viewed with a mixture of amusement, derision and pity. There’s sometimes even a whiff of moral panic about it: “just look what 24-hour drinking has led to!” However, Tandleman recently found himself in a branch of Spoons at this hour and took a considerably more sympathetic view:

By ten past nine when I leave there is a noticeable air of contentment and the genesis of a conversational buzz... Some spend quite a few hours there, but by four even the most hardcore will be gone, many resting for a repeat performance the next day. This is an interesting sub culture of pub goers. Good luck to them I say.
The last is an important point. They’re not settling in for an all-day session; many will be gone at lunchtime, and pretty much all by mid-afternoon. And is it really all that different from the regular sessions straight through from 5 or 5.30 to 11 pm that used to be commonplace and hardly remarked upon? I’d also suggest that in many cases they will only be drinking at a leisurely pace too.

The Eastern Daily Press reports how the phenomenon has spread well beyond Wetherspoon’s in Great Yarmouth, with pubs even offering happy hours for early morning drinkers. There seems to be a general feeling of conviviality and sociability. One customer said “I love the atmosphere in here and it's great to catch up with my mates. The pints are cheap and everyone is in good spirits”, while a barmaid commented “Everyone knows each other in here and they just have a laugh. There's no trouble.”

Other customers gave safety as a reason for coming out earlier. One said “I don't feel safe coming into the town any later. There are too many yobs on the streets and who knows what might happen”, and another added “It's not safe for someone like me who has health problems to come to the pub in the evening.” These fears may seem a touch exaggerated, but many towns that encourage a lively nightlife do develop a distinct “atmosphere” later in the evening that makes older drinkers feel uncomfortable.

It may not be something that appeals to you or me; it’s unlikely to meet with the approval of the public health lobby, and it’s certainly not compatible with holding down a job. But isn’t this really just a case of the liberalisation of licensing hours opening up opportunities for people to go to the pub at times that suit them? In this respect it’s similar to the busy sessions now seen in some pubs in the late afternoon when tradespeople knock off, a time of day when, before 1988, the pub doors would have been firmly shut.

Rather than laughing or sneering at the early-morning drinkers, shouldn’t we just accept that they’re taking advantage of longer opening hours to drink in a way that suits their particular pattern of life? It’s also usually going to be a calmer, more relaxed and sociable way of drinking than is typically associated with late nights. That surely is what pubs should be all about.

17 comments:

  1. I have absolutely no problem with this. Not something I'd do myself, and it would be very unusual indeed for me to drink before mid-day, but if it fits with their lifestyle and they're not problem drinkers, I see no harm at all. Incidentally, a colleague a few years ago used to regularly see a bloke at ~7am swigging a can of Special Brew, and we guessed he was a night-shift worker, so effectively, it was his evening drink. It's worth remembering that we don't all keep the same hours.

    I think some of the moral panic comes from the association of morning drinking meaning "wake up and start drinking", which clearly is an issue, but if people are timeshifted from the normal daytime hours, that doesn't apply.

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    1. Entirely agreed. Obviously these people are "problem drinkers" in Public Health terms, but I don't see that their overall comsumption is any worse than many other "normal" pub custoners. And they're enjoying themselves and socialising with mates.

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  2. A good post; I hadn't thought of morning drinking this way before. It would be good to see more pubs trying morning opening, not just Wetherspoons. It could be good for trade and beer turnover.

    Another advantage, as well as the towns being safer in the morning, is that there is more frequent public transport at that time of day.

    I've known many shift workers having a few cans after work at 6am - including one who used to go to church on a Sunday morning afterward! Doesn't London's Smithfield Market have a that caters for the market workers at these early hours?

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    1. The general trend is towards later opening - increasingly rarely before noon, and often not at lunchtimes at all. But, at least in town centres, there clearly is a demand for morning drinking, which obviously several pubs in Great Yarmouth are meeting. In Stockport town centre, I think the only pre-noon openers are Spoons and the two Sam Smith's pubs which open at 11, which was the statutory opening time under the pre-1988 hours.

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    2. Indeed. The big downside to "all day opening" is that pubs don't open as much or, crucially, as predictably as they did when I wor a lad
      I can think of no other serious business where opening hours are so loosely adhered to. We went to a pub in Mellor recently at eight pm only to find that he was closing for the day because he had had no customers all afternoon. You can't imagine a convenience store shutting early because of not being busy. Or buses going back to the depot because of few passengers.
      There does seem to a strong residue of that belief, very apparent back when, that the landlord is doing you a great favour by allowing you into his pub and letting you buy beer.

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    3. Entirely agreed - the sheer unpredictability of hours has become a major problem. I wrote about this last year.

      Hopefully everything is getting back to normal in Whaley Bridge :-)

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    4. Well the pubs are open :-)

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  3. I missed out the word "pub" from that last sentence!

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  4. The early doors drinkers where I live - twee coastal tourist village - start off in the Stonegate pub, which is a bit like a Spoons, but they go for the two bottles of wine for a tenner. They go to the club after that for the conviviality, because they're barred from everywhere else. The Stonegate pub won't let them back in after 12 in fairness.

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  5. A fair number of the 9am spooners are only waiting for the Sams Smiths to open mid morning.

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  6. The Stafford Mudgie12 August 2019 at 15:11

    I agree with Tandleman except that “sub culture” is unduly negative.
    I prefer using a pub in the morning rather than later in the day but that indeed is no “different from the regular sessions straight through from 5 or 5.30 to 11”.
    Today the weather was right for a morning’s gardening so it was 1pm before I had Greene King IPA in the Stonegate, Wadworths 6X in the Craft Union and Ruddles Best in the Wetherspoons – three pints and change out of £5 with the new vouchers – and I’m home just after 2.30pm leaving space in the pubs later on for all the lazy “lie ins” and myself pondering how I shall spend the remainder of the day. suggestions welcome !

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  7. Interesting how people judge the 9am Spooners via Victorian morality. Boozing really is a disreputable activity and one that requires some form of middle class respectability. Some sort of beer club masquerading as a campaign maybe?

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  8. While some of those drinking early doors may be regarded as "problem drinkers" to many of the coffee brigade, I know from personal experience this is a small minded view, for about a year I worked a twelve hour night shift, my local spoons serves alcohol from 8AM, which was great after a long night working, people are quick to judge, and think everyone drinking at that time is a bit of a sad case, I think the 4 million night workers in this country may disagree!

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  9. One of the arguments in favour of relaxing the licensing laws in the UK was always that it would introduce a more continental-style drinking culture. After 30 years I think it's happening. Go to small towns or villages in France, Italy or Spain and the local bars seems to open and shut at random times at the whim of their owners, but you'll often see people enjoying a glass of wine/pastis/beer in the morning. It's probably not what those campaigners had in mind, but still...
    AP.

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    1. The Stafford Mudgie13 August 2019 at 22:10

      But "open and shut at random times at the whim of their owners" in Britain is not so much the result of "relaxing the licensing laws" as the prerogative of poky micropubs.

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    2. Certainly not the prerogative of micro pubs, large or small. Plenty of "proper" pubs operate erratic opening times as I mentioned upthread.

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