Friday, 27 April 2018

Stand and deliver

I recently caught up at last with GBG ticker Simon Everitt of BRAPA fame at the Cherry Tree in Culcheth, a rather nondescript suburb of Warrington. Although it’s hardly a major metropolis, I noticed a pay and display machine in the pub’s car park. In this case it was no problem – it was only a quid, which was happily redeemed against a half of Tetley’s. But this is a phenomenon that is becoming increasingly common.

One of the first places I came across it was at the Bear’s Paw in Frodsham, Cheshire, which I mentioned here. In his last years, I sometimes used to take my dad out for a pint in the Golden Lion on Sunday lunchtimes. He had given up driving himself, and wasn’t really able to walk to the bus stop, so it was one of the few opportunities he had to get out of the house. The Golden Lion doesn’t have its own car park, but the Bear’s Paw just across the road does. Situated in the centre of a busy market town where parking is at a premium, inevitably non-customers were taking advantage, so you can’t really blame them for bringing it in. As the price differential between the Sam Smith’s in the Golden Lion, and whatever was on offer in Bear’s Paw, was easily a pound a pint, we were still quids in.

However, before pubs take the plunge, they need to think through the implications properly. You may be annoyed by non-customers using your car park, but unless they’re genuinely preventing customers from finding a space it’s not actually achieving anything for your business. Even though it may seem only a minor inconvenience, it’s still a little niggle to weigh in the balance when deciding where to visit. People’s pubgoing choices are determined by a whole raft of factors, many of which may individually appear trivial. Plus, in an age where cashless payment is increasingly becoming the norm, not offering this option erects another barrier.

In most examples I’ve seen, the charge is fully refundable at the bar, but in some cases a minimum spend is set. For example, at the Moor Top in Heaton Moor near me, the car park charge is £2, but you have to spend at least £5 to get a refund. Obviously they’re not interested in anyone just dropping in for a swift pint.

If people are really determined to take advantage, the enforceability of private parking “fines” is distinctly questionable – the system functions more as a psychological deterrent. You can of course bar them from the pub, but that’s no use if they never come in in the first place. There is also the factor that many responsible people may be reluctant to use the car park of a business where they’re not a customer, but have no such compunctions if a charge is introduced, as shown by the well-known experiment of introducing fines for late collection at a day nursery.

It may well be, of course, that a pub has an under-used car park that it wants to turn into a revenue stream, and if that’s the objective it’s entirely reasonable. But, whatever the circumstances, it’s important that pubs consider exactly what they’re setting out to achieve before implementing pay and display parking. And, if you want to ensure 100% compliance, the only way to do it is through putting up an exit barrier.

18 comments:

  1. The only place I've encountered this is at The Boot in Sutton Coldfield (which incidentally looks like a decent enough pub, but I've not actually been in). As you'll see from the map, it's close to Good Hope Hospital, which takes hospital parking difficulty to weapons-grade. It's actually quite handy, and must me quite a money spinner for them. I'd imagine without the cahrges the car park would be full much of the time.

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  2. I've never seen it personally, although I have seen the entry/exit barriers. I disagree with it but can see why they do it. My locals car park would be full of churchgoers cars at opening time on Sunday if they didn't put cones across the entrance. There's quite a few older folk who can't walk to the pub, arrive in cars bang on 12 for a drink and a chat, and they wouldn't be able to park. None of the churchgoers ask - how Christian is that? I don't think it's a pub thing, it goes wider, much wider. People these days want to park as near to where they want to be as possible and will do anything to achieve that. Parents would actually drive right into the classroom if they could when dropping their kids off! The methods to prevent this selfish behaviour are similarly distasteful, as your example shows.

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    1. Hmm. Not Methodists, by any chance, are they Richard?

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  3. I've worked in a couple of pubs where the car park would be rammed at weekend and customers could not get a spot because of non customers parking up to just go for a walk down the canal
    We didn't use pay and display though, we employed a parking company. They ticket anyone not using the pub and got to keep the revenue. Those tickets aren't really enforceable, but most people beleive they are and even so, it causes them a great deal of hassle
    In the week, it was never really a problem

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  4. Trouble comes when enforcement is contracted out. Go to a pub (or supermarket) two days running and the automatic number plate reading can say you have been parked 24 hours.

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  5. The Park Hotel in Birkdale, Southport, has a pay & display machine because it is in Birkdale village, an area busy with shops, pubs, bars, cafés and eating places, but not much parking. Some drivers used the pub car park without spending a penny in the pub, so I don't blame the Park for installing the machine. Some motorists feel they should be able to park wherever they like.

    There is absolutely no doubt that parking 'fines' are completely enforceable, provided certain conditions are met, such as clear signage. One woman who consistently threw away 'unenforceable' parking 'fines' over 2 years ended up in court and was £24,500 poorer as a result - see this news report.

    Having said all that, I do agree with you that pubs should consider all the implications, including whether they may lose more than they gain.

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    1. Not sure that really sets a precedent for the occasional use of pub or supermarket car parks, though. And I did say "questionable" not "non-existent".

      The general point of the post is not to say that these are always a bad thing, but that, as you say, pubs and other businesses should carefully think through what they're setting out to achieve. And the example Richard gives shows that, in some circumstances, other approaches, such as closing off the car park outside trading hours, may be more effective.

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  6. The other Mudgie !27 April 2018 at 15:12

    In a rather nondescript suburb of a rather nondescript town you must have appreciated a half from a proper old brewery you're now familiar with.

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  7. My local is close to a Zone 3 Tube station and a grotty school. Your £2 is refunded on your first drink. Before this was introduced a couple of years ago, it was practically a park and ride.

    This doesn't dissuade the grotty parents of the grotty children who go to the grotty school from waiting there at chucking out time.

    This is annoying, as quite a few of the punters at this pub are elderly and find the spaces are used by wastrels picking up their children and shopping. They are not the type to ever use the pub.

    Unfortunately. the patrols are infrequent and unarmed. It's the landlord's property and he - or to be more precise - we are paying for it.

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  8. I'd rather that there was a bar in every paying car park.

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  9. Another, possibly simpler way, would be to fit a barrier on the exit which needs a token from the bar to allow the vehicle to leave. That removes any problem with cashless people or questions about the enforcement of fines.

    Politically I consider the imposition of fines by private individuals or companies contrary to natural justice since they have a huge incentive to impose them in dubious circumstances. They same might be said to apply to local authority fines but at least the LAs are ultimately democratically accountable.

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  10. The most controlled car park I've ever seen - entrance barriers, non-refundable tickets from machines, enforcement wardens patrolling - is the Airport Hotel on Ringway Road, understandable really given that it's at the end of the runway at Manchester Airport and the large beer garden at the back is effectively a viewing park for plane spotters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdycbHXPpYc

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  11. A pub near me has a car park operated by a private company. You enter your registration into a gizmo on the bar and this gets you three hours free parking. Presumably there's a ANPR camera which clocks you and you get a fine if you overstay.

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    1. The other Mudgie !28 April 2018 at 14:21

      Bill,
      That's a great idea.
      After three hours in a pub I would not be fit to drive a car on the public highway.

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  12. I know a couple of pubs on the North Norfolk coast have tried it, one certainly failed, and the other seemed to hit problems with planning permission for the barriers/cameras, and as Ive never been to either pub since, Ive no idea if its still in operation. The issue was people were using the car parks as free parking and visiting the beaches instead of the pubs, if you used the pubs,and these are very much places youd only be able to drive to get to, then the parking was free

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  13. Pubs have to move with the times. There's buggar all money in that "real ale" The money is in microwave curries, parking charges, kids colouring crayons and offering a public toilet.

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    1. Or as the main character in The Green Man by Kingsley Amis, the embittered landlord of the pub of that name, "the sort of people who use two halves of bitter and two tomato juices as a quadruple ticket to the lavatories and washbasins."

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    2. Many pubs would consider that good business nowadays.

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