Simon Eldon-Edington: Don't look back in Anger…The UK pub trade associations' bizarre love affair with Sir Liam

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Smoking ban, Passive smoking, Smoking

"You know that the constant habit of drinking has made the English famous among all foreign nations?" We all love a pub quiz: So is the above...

"You know that the constant habit of drinking has made the English famous among all foreign nations?"

We all love a pub quiz: So is the above quotation:

a) The best thing to tell the judge if you're ever arrested for being drunk and disorderly on an overseas holiday?

b) Part of the "Welcome to Great Britain" pamphlet produced by the British Tourist board?

c) Similar to recent sentiments expressed by the UK Chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson?

Sir Liam believes that you, the UK publican, have a responsibility in curbing Britain's binge-drinking, smoking, and obesity problems. And the UK pub trade associations, based on their last piece of major health legislation negotiated with Sir Liam, bizarrely seem to agree.

Sir Liam tells us that Britain has a growing binge drinking problem, and it's caused by a combination of cheap supermarket booze, and over-indulgence in pubs. But according to John of Salisbury, who actually wrote the "constant habit of drinking has made the English famous" quotation, we've always had one. In fact, long before the advent of cheap supermarket booze and "2 for the price of 1" drinks promotions, John of Salisbury wrote that quote: In the 12th Century.

Sir Liam informs us however, that not only does this "growing" binge drinking effect the individual who drinks to excess, but through "passive drinking", it effects us all through alcohol-related violence such as bar attacks, assaults outside pubs, and of course, the related NHS costs everyone bears.

But the good news is, just like the "passive smoking" legislation you were all forced to implement on his behalf, Sir Liam wants the Publican to once again be in charge of implementing his "passive drinking" legislation too. And using the exact same phrases and logic he employed previously, Sir Liam wants a similar "one size fits all", zero choice, piece of legislation for you, the Publican, to implement:

Ban glass pints and replace them with some other material, probably plastic.

Now, while most people wouldn't deny that the UK does indeed have a serious binge drinking problem among a minority of it's population that can lead to violence, you may have noticed his proposal effects the entire population, and every publican, whether you have a binge drinking and alcohol related violence problem or not.

Do Publicans believe Sir Liam's proposal is the way to go? Whether your answer is "no", "that proposal will never happen", or "Why is this non-publican alleged screenwriter allowed to have a blog again anyway?" you'll forgive me, if I, as a mere customer of pubs, point out that although the major pub trade associations are currently against Sir Liam's "plastic pint glass" proposal, they were also originally against the smoking legislation too: before changing their minds.

In fact, in 2005, the BBPA wrote in the official government document on the proposed smoking legislation, while arguing for separate smoking and non-smoking areas inside pubs: "Customers want choice first and foremost, and should be free to visit any pub or licensed premises in the knowledge that there is a provision for them as either a smoker or a non-smoker". But in 2009, they now apparently think customers and Publicans do not want or deserve that choice anymore and state: "The industry has adapted to the challenge"…. "Moved on"…." There is no going back".

So I'd suggest, that a "plastic pint glasses for everyone" piece of legislation to curb binge drinking and violence does not seem an especially far-fetched outcome in a potential future round of "negotiations" between Sir Liam and the pub trade associations, whatever they state in 2009. Let's face it: Based on the evidence to date, the pub trade associations do seem to love, in the end, making you all implement a good piece of no choice, zero exemptions health legislation.

After all, what other trade associations, of any other business, would go along with the government to ensure that 50% of your current customer base would suddenly not be able to be serviced in the same comfort that they are used to, and also believe that it will have little to no bearing on your future bottom line? What economic theory states this is a likely outcome, for any business, of any kind?

And what other trade organizations, with fifty-two of their members businesses closing down every week, do not wish to discuss the current legislation anymore, and say we should all just move on? You know, unlike the German, Dutch and Croatian pub associations, who this year "moved on" by re-negotiating their smoking bans with their governments to allow choice.

And do the pub trade associations truly not see the irony of agreeing to implement one size fits all zero exemptions indoor smoking legislation to protect every single bar worker from second hand smoke, when many bar staff in the pub industry actually smoke themselves?

Yes the pub trade associations actually agreed to implement legislation that protects bar staff who smoke themselves, from inhaling second hand smoke. That's about as logical as say....curbing binge drinking violence by banning everyone from serving pints made of glass. How illogical. Until you remember, one of the above is already the law in your pub.

Now Sir Liam is just doing his job, but I believe the evidence to date demonstrates that either the pub trade associations are the worst negotiators since Chamberlin, coupled with the economic predictive vision of Gordon Brown, or, they genuinely believe, like Sir Liam, that publicans are indeed responsible for curbing binge-drinking, smoking, and obesity. Which is worse for your bottom line?

Which of the two it is, will shortly be revealed as Publicans now deal with the current government attack on what they state is only binge-drinking, but to me, is simply a desire to control, through similar draconian legislation as the smoking ban, the amount all of us drink. Which for you as a Publican, in effect means: when, how, and in what quantities, you can serve it. That going to help your bottom line?

My personal opinion is, binge drinking has always been, and will always be a problem with a minority of the UK population. And who really knows why. Some people want to get drunk, or need to get drunk, and there is not much you as a publican can do about it, besides kicking a drunkard out of your pub. After all, it's been going on since the 12th century.

And while Sir Liam does of course have a role in encouraging our current binge-drinkers to seek treatment through government-funded programs, in reality, the only time binge drinking truly effects us all, is when that excessive drinking leads to violence. Unless that is, you believe the government has the right to legislate how you use your own liver. After all, why stop at your lungs? Your stomach next anyone?

No doubt we have a problem with binge drinking related violence in the UK. But how should we deal with it? By making publicans ban glass pints for everyone? Restricting opening hours for everyone? Raising the price of drinks for everyone? Ban all alcohol advertising? All proposals on the table right now.

I live in Los Angeles, and the only bar violence I have ever seen here, was between two British football fans in a British pub in LA, five years ago. After the two morons had helpfully smashed a couple of tables and bottled each other, armed Police burst in and roughly arrested them at gun-point, to the cheers of the mostly British patrons.

I vividly remember watching one of them yelling and struggling outside the cop car, as the Policemen reigned down blows on him in a Rodney King-like moment, to further cheers of "wish they'd do that back home too", from the mostly British patrons. The British Publican of that LA pub, later told me both were sentenced to 4 years in jail, and upon eventual release, they would be banned from every bar in California for ten years. Sounds like a better way to deal with drunken violence than banning glass pints to me.

Now statically, America is a very violent s

Related topics: Legislation

Property of the week

Follow us

Pub Trade Guides

View more