Friday, 19 September 2008

No sign of the inn

In one of the most ludicrous examples of anti-drink political correctness I have yet seen, Wiltshire County Council have joined forces with the Highways Agency to compel pubs to remove roadside direction signs, on the grounds that they may act as an incentive to drink-driving.

Do they really think that drivers on seeing one of these signs will pull off the main road, have a skinful at the Dog & Duck and then return to the highways to cause carnage? The idea that in practice they will act as any kind of incentive to drink-drive offending is simply incredible.

To be consistent, are they going to also demand the removal of signs pointing to any other establishment with an alcohol licence, such as hotels or restaurants, not to mention supermarkets? And what about pubs that are already situated by the roadside – will they have to remove all advertising material?

Nowadays, most country pubs derive a large part of their income from food – many having become to all intents and purposes restaurants. For the vast majority of drivers, these signs say one thing: “Here is somewhere to stop for food”, as is clearly shown by the photograph.

Especially worrying are the comments of Jacqui Ashman of the Highways Agency:
No alcohol is allowed to be served or consumed in service stations on motorways as a matter of principle and we would wish to continue this principle by not encouraging drivers to break their journey in a public house.
Why not? Even if you accept the argument that drivers should not consume any alcohol whatsoever, most pubs will offer a far wider range of soft drinks than motorway service areas, and will also provide a much more relaxing atmosphere. Service areas exist purely to serve road travellers, while pubs cater for a much wider and more diverse market. And service areas in many Continental countries serve alcohol with meals without the roads becoming a scene of mayhem.

And the point must be made that, even though the likes of Ms Ashman may want it to be different, drinking alcohol before driving is still permitted in this country so long as you do not exceed the prescribed legal limit.

Regrettably this is just another small, subtle way of undermining the trade of pubs and accelerating their decline.

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