Sunday, 19 July 2020

Stop all the clocks

CAMRA have stated their intention not to include any information on pub opening hours in the 2021 Good Beer Guide, which is due to be belatedly published at the end of October. The reasoning behind this is that, in the wake of the Covid lockdown, many pubs will be operating different or reduced hours and, given the impossibility of resurveying every pub, the information would thus be extremely unreliable. No details at all are arguably better than incorrect details. This is only planned to be a temporary measure, and the aim is to restore opening hours in the 2022 edition.

However, even inaccurate information does serve a purpose in a negative way by giving an indication of times when you can be pretty sure that a pub will not be open, and thus there is no point in trying to visit. It’s a fair bet that very few pubs will actually be opening longer hours than they did before. There are also many pubs, such as the Wetherspoon’s which make up about 5% of the entries, where the opening hours are firmly established and could be published without any risk of misleading readers. On the other hand, in my experience, the shorter and more unusual the hours that are advertised for a pub, the more likely they are not to adhere to them.

It’s airily said that if you’re concerned about whether a pub might be open, you can easily phone them to check. However, that shows a failure to appreciate the way many people use the Guide in practice. Rather than fixing on a specific pub and planning an expedition to visit it, they are much more likely to browse a range of entries in a town, or along a route, to see which might be worth a visit. If you find yourself in Borchester on a Monday night, you’re not going to phone round nine pubs to check whether they might be open. You’re much more likely just to go to Spoons, which you know will be open. And the information contained on pubs’ own websites and Facebook pages is notoriously inaccurate.

Some have suggested that CAMRA should simply abandon publication of the Guide this year, as the lockdown has brought about such a dramatic change in the pub landscape that it has become more a history book than something of current relevance. However, its unbroken publication over 45 years has become a key symbol of CAMRA’s efforts, and it would seem wrong to simply discard all the effort that has been put into it at ground level. Plus, in the current climate when income from beer festivals has completely dried up, the revenue is important for CAMRA’s finances.

There are cogent reasons why the decision has been taken, but the importance of reasonably accurate information on opening hours should not be understated. It will also inevitably lead some people to decide not to purchase the Guide due to the incompleteness of the information contained in it. And it will make life even more difficult for the dedicated band of tickers of GBG entries.

Maybe it would also make sense to drop the beer listings against each pub, which can be even more inaccurate than the opening hours. But at least it will bring to a temporary halt the interminable debate about whether or not to adopt the 24-hour clock!

19 comments:

  1. To be honest, I was going to give the Good Beer Guide a miss next year, for a change. There's no guarantee that the pubs will still be open or even that the breweries will still be in business.
    I tend to use Whatpub to check on opening times, anyway, rather that using the GBG. If I find errors on the website I notify the local branch and details are generally updated pretty quickly, whereas the information in the Guide is obviously months out of date.

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  2. To be honest, I was going to give the Good Beer Guide a miss next year, for a change. There's no guarantee that the pubs will still be open or even that the breweries will still be in business.
    I tend to use Whatpub to check on opening times, anyway, rather that using the GBG. If I find errors on the website I notify the local branch and details are generally updated pretty quickly, whereas the information in the Guide is obviously months out of date.

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  3. Interesting question. Is a stopped watch better than a watch that never tells the correct time?
    I would guess wrong information is worse than none but as I'm not a customer of this publication I'm interested in what the people that buy it think.

    Seems to me the beer guide once had a use as a peer reviewed list of real ale outlets back when the world was Watneys. Later on it maintained a use in sharing the better quality establishments. Even that latter use is bunk these days. The guide will direct you on a wet tuesday afternoon to a poor quality tired pint in a multi pump micro pub and away from a well kept pint in an establishment that ticks fewer of the boxes CAMRA types feel important.

    I would guess most people would accept the upheavals of this year have made any attempt to compile a list of pubs on any criteria a waste of time. All the pre-covid data is redundant. There is little time to gather it afresh and whatever is gathered is out of date in weeks.

    The only reason to publish a book is money. Extracting an extra tenner out of the members.

    Most activities CAMRA get up to these days and are desperate for a new generation to volunteer for are well past their original purpose and are now primarily revenue projects. Save yourselves a tenner. See what they knock out in a year.

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  4. Are you sure you mean "the dedicated band of tickers of GBG tickers"? I'm sure I read somewhere that only seven serious completists are known so it might be more difficult than just ticking the pubs yourself.

    I cancelled my GBG subscription a few years ago and one reason was that it is so out of date when eventually released. I did have hope that these new-fangled 'computers' might have accelerated the process but seemingly not.

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    1. Well spotted! I have certainly "ticked" Martin, Simon and Duncan, though.

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  5. Waste of paper and money ,far too big and heavy.
    Breweries should be in another book and the space used to reintroduce try also pubs.
    The app is fine and can be amended to cope with the changing situation we find ourselves in.

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    1. Agreed, the totally superfluous Breweries Section should have been dropped years ago. The App is perfectly adequate, and saves lugging a heavy, dog-eared and moth-eaten bundle of paper around with you.

      If you're into defacing your guide with a highlighter, you might have a different opinion, of course!

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    2. I dont colour in my book, but I find it more useful than the current app because I can go and look to see what pubs were included in the 2009 edition Ive kept,or look back 20 years from now at the 2021 edition (assuming I buy it) to remind myself of what the pub landscape looked like now as I suspect it will be quite different 20 years from now. The app doesnt keep that kind of historical record it gives you the current year, and thats it and you buy next years app and it overwrites it, plus when they brought the new app out, I was an adoptee of the older version which still had the historical flaw but worked better overall IMO,as the new one insists on an internet connection to function,rather than store the data on your phone, which might be fine in the metropolis of everyone is online all the time, but I can assure you, you will struggle to get connection in large parts of Norfolk, so it isnt much good if you want to check a map for where a pub is and your app refuses to load properly and all it wants to do is often give you a default pub picture.

      I do think the breweries section is outdated the moment it gets published, but again its about a record keeping,which isnt something we should easily dismiss,whether that should be the GBG or in some other form of publication is probably debateable.

      But alot of the debate about the GBG is about well worn paths the books team go through every year, the book sells, and it sells in volumes greater than just the tickers/completeists, so other people buy it in quantity enough to make it worthwhile still, so why radically change something that brings revenue into CAMRA. And people in the online world, spend alot of time saying the online world is where everything should be stored, and I dont think people realise the world isnt as online as they think.

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  6. Damned if they do, damned if they don't? As an aside, the Cross Keys in Belper, Derbyshire is one pub that is open longer hours than pre-lockdown (i.e. pretty much all day, every day) due to a new landlord. He actually took the pub on the day before the pubs were ordered to close - bad timing! The beer range is a bit hit and miss until Batemans get back into full production though.

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  7. I had already become increasingly disillusioned with the GBG over the ever-growing proportion of entries that were micropubs and brewery taps of very limited appeal and even more limited opening hours. This has prompted me to cancel my annual subscription.

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    1. It’s become a very subjective list of mostly beer enthusiasts pubs, rather than the objective guide it was and still should be. Dumping the large numbers of pubs with great beer owned by the very brewers CAMRA previously worshipped demonstrates a fickleness and hypocrisy I never thought the campaign would stoop to.

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  8. Even before the virus hoax was perpetrated pubs were notorious for keeping their opening hours confidential.
    There is much information about opening hours on the internet - Google, Trip Advisor etc - but that information might as well be a politicians promise.
    And very few pubs display their opening hours outside the premise because, as one landlord confided to me, he doesn't want to be tied down by published hours. I can think of few other retail businesses that could survive with such an amateurish attitude; and the few that do are ones that offer a unique service.
    It is all part of the entitled attitude that so many publicans have. Their feeling that they are doing you a favour by selling you beer and, if you don't like ti, you can piss off. Wll, many peoiple are pissing off as evidenced by the number of pubs that are closing.
    Which might be part of the reason the pub trade is in decline

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    1. Yes, we've discussed before how pubs are inexplicably coy about their opening hours, which can't do their overall trade any good. Even if you're not planning to visit a pub on a particular occasion, if you pass it and see its hours displayed you will know when it will be open when you might fancy a pint.

      It's no coincidence that those operators with a truly commercial attitude, especially Wetherspoon's, both open long and predictable hours and make sure people know about it.

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    2. And if you go to a pub during its posted opening hours and find it closed it probably won't be a future destination.

      Just before lock-down a group of seven of us went to a pub in Mellor at eight o'clock, to find the landlord closing up because "I have had hardly any customers today". Our pleas that we were customers fell on deaf ears so we went elsewhere and will not be returning

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    3. "Virus hoax"! Sums this place up.

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    4. Nobody's forcing you to comment, or even read it.

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  9. Professor Pie-Tin20 July 2020 at 21:44

    From Ireland.
    Covid news just in.
    Six people were infected in the entire country yesterday.No-one died.In a population of 5 million.
    SIX.
    Yet Ireland remains in semi-lockdown with offices and shopping centres deserted, wet-led pubs shuttered until August 10, 313,000 people on emergency unemployment payments of €350 a week costing billions of euros to the economy, mandatory mask-wearing in shops introduced, the tourist and hospitality industry flat-lining in ICU.
    It is total insanity that a population meekly accepts a Goebbals-style level of indoctrination over the fears of contracting a virus that has virtually disappeared on the island.
    Yet they do.

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    1. I’ve found a lot of the problem is people virtue signalling their assumed sense of moral superiority and self importance by clinging to strict adherence to ‘the rules’, wailing frequently that the virus hasn’t at all gone away and taking every opportunity to condemn anyone who dares to disagree.

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