Well, the North Review has finally been published, and, as feared, recommends reducing the UK drink-driving limit from 80mg to 50mg. While this is often viewed as something that would solely affect rural pubs, in reality it would have a noticeable impact in urban areas too.
Obviously within an urban area it’s possible for most people to easily reach a pub on foot or by public transport, but equally it is a matter of observable fact that many people do visit pubs by car and drink alcohol. Remember we are not talking about people going out for a protracted drinking session, but just having a couple of pints. In many cases these pub visits will be tagged on to another activity for which people are using their cars, and it is likely to be the pub that gets the chop, not the car trip. And, even if people are specifically going to and from the pub by car, relatively few of those trips will be directly substituted by public transport. Some may still go to the pub in the car and drink less, others won’t bother at all, some indeed may choose to break the new law, but the overall impact on trade points only one way, and that is downwards.
It’s also likely that many responsible people, mindful of the risks of the “morning after effect”, will drink less during the evening “on a school night”, which on some occasions may lead them not to bother going to the pub at all. Even within Greater Manchester, over 50% of workers commute by car as drivers.
The effect probably wouldn’t be sufficient to render any individual urban pub completely unviable, but, as we have seen with the smoking ban, a reduction in trade across the board over time does result in closures if there is less business in total to go round. So nobody should sit there smugly and think “it won’t affect me and my local pubs”. It will.