The latest imposition on business from the public health lobby has surfaced in Bristol, where the city’s health and wellbeing board has proposed requiring pubs to stock a non-alcoholic beer on draught. This would initially only apply to city-centre venues with a large number of taps, but presumably would eventually be rolled out to cover the rest. They claim that the idea “would increase consumption of the healthier drinks by making them more visible and socially acceptable because they would look the same in a pint glass as an ordinary beer.”
This really is an unprecedented step, not simply to prevent businesses from selling a particular product, but to force them to sell one. And, of course, while you can make pubs stock alcohol-free beer, you can’t make customers buy it. The risk is that pubs will be left with stocks of unsaleable beer that they end up having to pour down the drain, at their own cost, of course. There’s a very good reason why low-volume products are sold in bottles or cans rather than on draught.
In any case, in the past few years there has been a huge expansion in the availability and choice of alcohol-free beers in pubs, so the market is already providing a solution to the problem. I’ve recently spotted draught Heineken Zero in a couple of pubs. If the demand is there, pubs will meet it.
It brings back memories of suggestions in Glasgow a few years ago to require pubs and other eating places to offer “healthy” salads on their menus. This fortunately never came to anything, but you can see the public health lobby’s eyes lighting up at the thought of all kind of things they could mandate businesses to do, without having any responsibility for the potentially adverse effect on profitability.
It’s worth noting that the proposals also involve further ostracism of smokers by reclassifying part of outdoor smoking areas for vaping only. Given that indoor vaping remains a legal activity, wouldn’t it make more sense to encourage pubs to provide vaping rooms or sections inside their premises?