Chris Maclean: inside outside bars

By Chris Maclean

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Wedding Wedding anniversary Anniversary

I have just turned down another invitation to do an outside bar. The gentleman assured me I had come highly recommended and it was for a charity...

I have just turned down another invitation to do an outside bar. The gentleman assured me I had come highly recommended and it was for a charity event. I immediately reached for my diary and thought of an appropriate excuse. I said I was busy.

Outside bars used to be quite a lucrative little sideline for me. I regarded it as the equivalent of an extra day's trading. Eight days in the week rather than seven. For years I was the principle provider for about eight village halls locally. And you took the rough with the smooth. Sometimes wedding parties could be tremendously busy and lots of fun but, increasingly despite all the assurances of the parties concerned, you would arrive to find the hall tables laden with cheap wine from France.

People would lie a lot to persuade you to provide a bar. Yes, they would tell me, they would all be great drinkers. There will be at least 150 people there. Everyone turns up. I remember being told that for one wedding reception everyone would be drinking Newcastle Brown. On the night I lugged cases of the stuff across to the furthest part of some obscure village hall. I sold two bottles. Two. Then I had to lug the stuff back again.

I feel I'd need to take at least £500 to make it worthwhile. Charity ones sometimes even had the cheek to expect me to provide myself, my staff and my profit for them!

Gradually I became selective. Eighteenth birthday parties, wedding receptions, young farmers' discos would be OK. But silver wedding anniversaries, retirement parties and the like would be given a wide berth. I've memories of one wretched wedding anniversary where, clearly, there had been some family fracture. The opposing families lined up on either side of the hall. The awful DJ was playing Agadoo again and no one was speaking to each other. I had taken about £25 by nine o'clock when a lady walked into the hall and said casually "It's started snowing". People quietly picked up their coats and within fifteen minutes it was only the DJ and me. The hall was empty.

Now, sadly, the new licensing laws have killed off such village hall festivities. A temporary event notice, at £21 with 64 questions to be completed four times (256 questions) and 10 working days notice, is just too much effort.

So I'll be mostly saying no to outside bars.

Unless it's a really good one.

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