Tuesday, 12 May 2009

New Model Pub

In recent weeks there have been a few examples of representatives of anti-alcohol groups such as Don Shenker of Alcohol Concern praising the “controlled drinking environment” of the traditional pub. Of course this is just weasel words, as in reality they are playing divide and rule with the drinks trade, and their underlying objective is to see, if not total prohibition, then a massive fall in alcohol consumption and the number of pubs, and an equally massive rise in the price of drink.

But you don’t have to scratch very far below the surface to appreciate that they don’t really have a clue what pubs are all about. Take, for example, this ludicrous call from so-called “alcohol expert” Dr Lynn Owens for pubs in Liverpool City Centre to be turned into cafés. This breezily ignores the basic economic principle that the market will provide the kind of outlets that people want. If there was a demand for cafés, there would be cafés. And what right has she, who has probably never run a business in her life, to seek to dictate what kind of businesses there should be? Perhaps next she’ll be demanding that tanning salons be replaced with wholefood shops.

There’s more evening food served in pubs now than at any time in living memory – just look in your local Wetherspoon’s – plus a huge rise in the number of restaurants in city centres. The world has changed, and in reality we have a lot more of that café culture than many give credit for.

These people just don’t get the idea of “going out for a drink”, and never will, and stories like this just serve to underline why there’s no point in trying to compromise or reason with them. They also seem to have no time for the concept of letting others live their lives as they see fit.

(h/t Dick Puddlecote)


  1. Yes, there are too many organisations taht don't even want to second guess a person's preferences; they simply try to create the world in their own dull image. Unlike, markets which are great at bringing about satisification of a coincidence of wants, viz., demand and supply. I'll be happier when these do-gooders find themselves a commune to live out their self-suppressed lives.

  2. Of course this would be all very well if only these do gooders had a shred of evidence to support their anti democratic views.

    They don't. Goebbels like they rely on the premise that if you repeat a lie often enough, it will, to all intents and purposes, become true.

  3. This will only breed misery.

    People in this country like a drink. If you don't like a drink, fair enough. Go and find something that you do enjoy. The problem is that much of the general public are increasingly used to doing things by fiat and force.

    Fake charities will be wheeled out, lies will be spouted... and more pubs will close and more people will lose their jobs. It's economic and social madness. But at least it's better for their 'elf.

    It's all about taking away life's simple pleasures to make us live longer. I don't know about you but I went into one of Labour's public sector retirement homes the other day and it was absolutely filthy. What's the point of living longer if you're only going to suffer in your final years?

    These people desire a return to a 1950s-style Systembolaget for the modern era, complete with rationing through the ID card database, restrictive opening hours with the outlets staffed by people just like them. They probably want to raise the drinking age to 35 too. And no more than one bottle of wine a week.

    If they want to live a life like that they are more than welcome to. Just don't force it on the rest of us.

  4. I even found a moralising link on my facebook sidebar: http://www.drinkaware.co.uk


  5. Thanks for the {broken} link PB. ;-)

    This is why I have always argued that meddlers need to be tackled on every issue, not just ones with which one may agree.

    Once they are shown the open stable door, they bolt like a mustang.

  6. Whilst agreeing with elements of your post, there is an element of truth in what Dr Lynn Owens has noticed. Namely that rows of busy bars of vertical drinkers jostling to get into the bar are only popular with a narrow demographic and often that demographic is young, boisterous and anti social behaviour is often never far away. A drinking circuit that appeals to a wider demographic, including the older and middle class will have a moderating effect on overall behaviour. Something I’d expect an appreciator of traditional pubs to accept, considering their wide appeal and the overall rarity of trouble. As for the free market determining the design of town centres, I’m not aware of a town centre in the land where you can claim that. Town planners, council committees will have as much say as the business community. It strikes me as reasonable for town planners to plan for a continental style drinking culture that appeals to a wider demographic and I welcome a perspective that accepts the country has real problems with binge drinking, underage drinking, and no go town centres and the solution is more complex than simply hiking up the price of booze. Dr Lynn Owens has a specific bias in her point of view, in that for most anti social behaviour is an occasional irritancy whilst she spends every weekend patching up the hooligans; never the less her opinions deserve more thought and respect than to be called ludicrous.

  7. Alex,

    I appreciate that local councils have a large say in the physical layout of town centres, but to seek to dictate how businesses operate and what products and services they offer is taking things to an entirely different level. Surely so long as businesses operate within the law it is no business of the council what they do otherwise.

    You can't create a café-bar culture simply by providing cafés that remain unused - supply and demand does not work that way. We run the risk of having the situation that prevails in New Zealand and some US States where all bars have to provide a substantial food offering throughout their hours of operation even if nobody wants to eat. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.

    And don't forget that much of the blame for the current disorderly town-centre drinking scene must be placed at the door of councils for encouraging new bars to open up in the first place to revive supposedly moribund "night-time economies". See this posting entitled Back Street Heroes.

    "there’s nothing so certain in life as the law of unintended consequences. And what actually happened was that the dramatic increase in the overall drinking space in bars, often with large circulating areas and relatively few seats, far from leading to a civilised, café-society culture, ended up with city centres being dominated at weekends by large packs of young people roaming around clutching Bacardi Breezers with the prime intention of getting horrendously drunk."

  8. Curmudgeon,

    I don't like to say it but that's spot on.

  9. Curmudgeon, you are certainly right in regard to the law of unintended consequence. Continental resorts have long had a cafe bar drinking scene and many places Brits have travelled in great numbers this culture has anglicised. However to say was the natural effect of a free market would be only partly true. Countries like Spain, since the 70’s, made a decision to accept this as they required foreign currency for economic growth. Not all resorts populated by the Brits have followed this route, only those that chose to.

    There are many reasons to believe attempts to broaden the appeal of town centres could fail for the reasons you have given, and they would remain areas dominated by young rowdy binge drinkers, with the more sedate steering clear. To say the market determines the outcome is a fair point, but to then claim the market is in anyway working efficiently is another point entirely. When the market appeals to those whose behaviour leaves much to be desired, and therefore as a consequence excludes those whose behaviour is welcome, I find it difficult to believe the market is working efficiently. Demand for a civil drink is not being met. If this is a free market outcome then I find myself doubting the desirability of a fully free market outcome.

    To absolve a business of the unacceptable side effect of their business operation, with the excuse they are operating within the law, asks the question whether the law is acceptable. The law does dictate how businesses operate and what products and services they offer. I’m not aware of a pub or bar I can legally buy a line of cocaine, and legislation covering whole swathes of business operations govern health and safety.

    The following link is an amusing explanation as to why many drinkers steer clear of town centres


    When 24 hour drinking came in, it received the support of a wide base of people who thought it ludicrous that you could go for a drink after a film or the theatre on the continent, but here all the pubs ceased serving at 11. Now you can go for a drink, but you might have to step over a drunken vomiting teenager and avoid the fight, so many would get the cab home just as they did before.

    The headline in the article indicated the good doctor wanted to close pubs. Her quotes indicate that really she wanted more cafe bars and fewer drinking den bars. She might of pointed out the broad appeal and limited trouble found in the average traditional pub, but she might not get out much. As doctor she is aware of the amount of NHS resources being used to patch the drunks up, and the increases in the number of 20 year olds with liver failure. The problems are not going away, and the solution is either culture or price. The good doctor recognised the solution is culture.


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