Friday, 23 July 2010

A price worth paying?

Critics of the proposed reduction of the drink-drive limit point out the impact it would have on rural pubs and on rural social life in general (and in this context, “rural” means anywhere outside of big towns, not just the deep countryside). In the past, I have seen suggestions that an 80-50 limit cut could result in the closure of up to ten thousand pubs, although some of them may now already have been accounted for by the smoking ban. 7,500 is more likely. It scarcely needs repeating that pubs are widely valued as social centres and a cohesive point for village and rural communities.

The North Report acknowledges this but doesn’t really properly address it:
There were concerns expressed about the impact of a reduced blood alcohol limit on the drinks industry. The British Beer and Pub Association was particularly concerned about the impact on rural pubs, saying that drivers would be reluctant to go out to pubs which involved driving and would be reluctant to go for meals in groups where the driver could not drink. The Association said, “Lowering the BAC limit will therefore have significant impact on footfall in rural food-led pubs resulting in loss of sales across all areas, but especially food”. Their concern was heightened because of the particular reliance of many pubs on food to maintain their profitability. The Association went on to calculate that if one-third of those currently arriving at pubs by car chose not to go, pubs would lose £624 million a year. This was hugely significant, they said, because pubs were closing at the rate of 39 per week. The consequent loss of duty would also impact upon the Exchequer. This concern for pubs, and rural pubs and their place in rural life, was shared by others in the industry who gave evidence to the Review, with the Federation of Licensed Victuallers Associations, for example, writing in very similar terms.
Any policy proposal that is likely to make large numbers of lawful businesses unviable and result in a serious detriment to rural communities should not be allowed to go through on the nod. Surely there needs to be a detailed investigation of the effect that reducing the limit might have on rural pubs and communities. It may be a price worth paying, but that price needs to be quantified.

It is always difficult to forecast the effect of any legislative change on the licensed trade, particularly as it has long been characterised by the triumph of hope over experience. For example, while the smoking ban has undoubtedly led to the closure of large numbers of pubs, some of the pubs that had seemed most vulnerable – landlocked, no outside drinking space, no food trade – are still in business.

However, looking at the proportion of customers of a pub eating meals, in conjunction with the proportion arriving by car, will give a reasonable impression of the potential effect of a limit cut on any particular pub. A pub with entirely wet trade and all customers arriving by car will have no chance. But a pub with 75% dining, and 65% arriving by car, will be in a better position than one with 10% dining, but 45% arriving by car. People will be much more likely to continue to visit pubs to eat meals and drink less than they will be just to have a drink and a chat. Also those eating meals are more likely to travel in groups where the driver may not feel he is making too much of a sacrifice by being abstemious.

Anything with under 25% arriving by car would have little to worry about – which underlines the sense behind Wetherspoons’ long-standing policy of concentrating on town-centre sites, even if at times it may have given the impression they were ducking competition and limiting their options.

As with the smoking ban, the effect on pubs would be slower and more insidious than might be supposed, and likely to take at least five years to work itself out, as licensees try new ideas and formulas in a usually futile attempt to attract new custom. There are plenty of pubs that in the long run have been made unviable by the smoking ban, but are still open and struggling along. But the idea that it wouldn’t close pubs at all, or that the effect would be trivial, is simply incredible.


  1. "Any policy proposal that is likely to make large numbers of lawful businesses unviable and result in a serious detriment to rural communities should not be allowed to go through on the nod."

    I don't think they give a shit.

    Sorry for the profanity but I'm sick of it.

  2. Ah the old 'if it saves the life of one person' doctrine. People have to start thinking logically instead of emotionally ... but they won't. The world is a dangerous place ... period. You can take safety steps but there comes a time when you have to realise that you are damaging the very fabric of our lives for an 'emotional' safety step.

    A prime example is speed ... we reduce it and reduce it but where do we stop? About a year ago l hit a girl and broke her leg. She ran out from behind a van just as l was reaching the end of the van. There was no chance of me stopping in time as she ran into me.

    Now here's the thing ... it was in a side street and it is tight with cars parked either side. The speed l was doing was 10 mph max! ... but the Mercedes weighs over 2 tons and 10mph is 14.6 ft/sec. lmagine running into 2 tons+ travelling at 14.6 ft per sec. The Merc is solid ... people aren't.

    Will they reduce speed limits further? ... probably. Will they eventually have a zero limit for alcohol? ... probably. What next? ... l predict prescription and non-prescription drugs.

    lf they carry on like this, the very thing that they are trying to protect will become unbearable itself ... life!

  3. Smoking - You put that a lot better than my little comment.

    I have done similar. I was slowing to pull into a parking space just after an alley when about 7 kids came barrelling out of it and I flattened one of them.

    Two things they always omit when they try to "make sure this never happens again".

    One- Its very important to teach children road safety. Whatever happened to the green cross code?
    Two- How bad it makes the driver feel, doing something like that. We don't do it for sport.

  4. True Bucko ... road safety is down to the drivers not the pedestrians. How dangerous is the l-Pod when it comes to road safety and pedestrians?

    Another thing ... they never tell you how many people are killed by the very thing that is supposed to save their lives. Seat belts! lf there's someone killed because of a seat belt they just become a road traffic fatality and nothing more.

    l know, because l'm still her because l didn't wear one. Tyre company trainee left a balance weight between tyre and innertube. Rear wheel blew whilst l was cornering. Range Rover rolled and flattened it's roof. Steering wheel was were my head would have been but fortunately as car rolled l had ended up on back seat.

    Strange world ... it certainly isn't predictable like these safety nuts like to portray.

  5. Lucky escape by not following the "rules". These health and safety jobsworths are all black and white, but life is never like that.

    Off topic but you mention the Ipod. One self defence course that I have been on says that people who get mugged are alwaays the ones who have no idea whats going on around them. People who are ambling along listening to Ipods or talking on their mobiles are easy targets because they never see it coming.

  6. Just one tiny nanosecond here,
    how many of these nice traditional
    rural carvery sheds fixed their bayonets when some of their lifelong elderly regulars were forced to stand behind the privots
    for a smoke. They did'nt give a shit as long as metroman popped
    in at weekend with some well worn
    blouse munching on half cooked
    dishes with poncy names.
    Let em close like shut down
    smoked stained hovels in our
    forgotten slums.

    0 limit,bring it on.

    Tiberius Gracchus

  7. Dog firmly ensconced in the manger there, Anon.

  8. True, Smoking. My old man doesn't wear seat belts to this day, even arguing with Police on the few occasions he's been stopped. The reason he's so militant about it is that my Gran was in a side-on collision and then died a week later from internal injuries caused by the seat belt. Without it, who knows what might have happened? She may still have died, knocked from one side of the car to the other. But the fact remains - the impact didn't kill her, the belt did. And even in today's Moron-Copper times, the Police have always let him drive off once it's become clear why he doesn't wear one and how strongly he feels about it.


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