Saturday, 31 July 2010

Tilting the scales

Phil Mellows points out here two aspects of the Coalition’s proposed licensing reforms that have the potential to cause serious problems for the pub trade. It is planned to drop the requirement for objectors to licences to live “in proximity” to the premises in question, and also to add the “promotion of public health” to licensing objectives.

In combination these measures could open the way for alliances of public objectors, ideologically motivated by a general dislike of pubs, drinking and people enjoying themselves. Indeed, the germ of such an organised force already exists, set up by the temperance-funded Institute of Alcohol Studies.
So this gives some miseryguts in Stockton the right to object to a pub licence in Stockport just because it’s a pub and therefore a source of moral degeneracy?

And how on earth is a pub supposed to “promote public health”? While it may create a lot of human happiness, and thus improve people’s state of mind, it can’t really be said that a pub, especially a wet-led one, promotes health in the terms defined by the Righteous. Does any other type of business have such a pious aspiration loaded on to it?

As with many other such things, in the short term this may seem as though it’s nothing much to be worried about, but in the long run it must have the potential to come back and bite pubs with a vengeance. This is not “rebalancing” the licensing laws, but tipping them very steeply against the pub trade. And the more pubs become sanitised temples of health, the more their customers will turn to the arms of Tesco and informal social gatherings on private premises.

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