Try January: Pubs are to schmooze in, not just booze in

By Lee Price

- Last updated on GMT

Try January: Pubs are to schmooze in, not just booze in

Related tags Current bii licensee Alcoholic beverage Uk Bii licensee

I have spent the greater part of January laughing at the dependable regulars debating the pleasurable after-effects of low alcohol beer.

Despite being one of many responsible UK publicans that routinely raise significant sums for charity, I still do not take Dry January as an insult. Asking customers to prioritise my profits over their health is selfish.

Fortunately, food-based trips to the pub remain an attractive proposition and #TryJanuary gifted those who are good at what they do the perfect opportunity to promote their way out of a traditionally quiet period, by encouraging customers to sample unfamiliar food and drink combinations.

One or two stood on the edge, others tentatively dipped their toes, but the majority took a run and jumped with both arms wrapped around knees that were tightly tucked under their chins.

I am certain that #TryJanuary has ensured that many more people across the country re-engaged with the pub, and it should serve as a stark reminder that operators must evolve and provide something different and exciting to remain the best place to socialise.

At the same time that punters rethink their relationship with alcohol, landlords must re-evaluate their relationship with their customers. Instead of risking no alternative than to give up totally, offering low and no-alcohol choices will encourage drinkers to give their liver a break throughout the entire year, instead of remaining abstinent for January alone.

Pubs are expected to be at the heart of the community, so they must not be at the back of the mind when people in the street decide to meet. We should make use of Dry January to teach society that it is not impossible to be in a pub without holding a beer.

Being fashionably dehydrated throughout the first month of the year is probably here to stay, and it is precisely why pubs nowadays need to promote themselves as the perfect meeting place to schmooze, not just booze.

I am doubtful the charitable wagon will bring about a lasting change in alcohol consumption, and I agree that a long-term improvement in health and wellbeing will always be better achieved through moderation on a regular basis rather than having an annual purge.

Nevertheless, if it prompts the individual to think a little more about their intake of alcohol, if it leads to a healthier attitude towards the amber brew, and if it encourages people to drink with respect, it should not be considered an injustice.

Lee Price is manager of the Royal Pier in Aberystwyth and current BII Licensee of the Year

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