Is Big Brother watching you?

By Ed Bedington

- Last updated on GMT

Is Big Brother watching you?

Related tags: Alcoholism, Drinking culture

Big brother is watching — beware that friendly stranger at the bar chatting to your customers, he could land you in some serious trouble!

The idea that Liverpool is set to see undercover officers assessing the drunkenness levels of customers throughout the city’s pubs, as part of a crackdown on pre-drinking, could almost be lifted straight from the pages of Orwell’s 1984.

This, combined with pubs and bars being urged to breathalyse punters as they come through the doors, makes me wonder what message we’re sending out to customers.

It’s a recognised fact that the pub is the safest environment for consuming alcohol. Yet with these kinds of activities, we run the risk of people turning away from them rather than be monitored and forced to jump through hoops.

Pre-drinking is a problem for pubs, but the idea of using undercover officers in pubs to assess levels is not going to solve or improve the problem for publicans! It’ll only serve to ensure the pre-drinkers not only pre-drink at home, but probably carry on drinking at home rather than run the risk of having their collars felt by PC Plod!

Most publicans are responsible business operators who are not going to be serving obviously drunk customers. The campaign by Liverpool simply shows a lack of trust in the trade, and won’t deal with the root problem of pre-drinking in any way.

Once again, rather than looking at the availability of cheap alcohol in the off-trade, they seek to punish those in the on-trade who, rather than contribute to the problem, are victims of the situation.

I’ve talked about paranoia in the past, but the current procession of kill joy campaigns — Stoptober, Go Sober, Dry January — seems to grow all the time. Soon we’ll be restricted to one month of binge drinking a year! What’s wrong with baking a cake to raise some money for charity? Oh hang on, cakes are probably full of sugar and bad for you — can’t condone that.

It is frustrating.

However, I do applaud the attitudes of both the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers and the British Beer & Pub Association who say that instead of kicking out against the nonsense these charities are peddling, pubs should embrace them, and showcase the fact that the pub is more than just about alcohol.

I would back this, and it’s certainly a stance we support with our Try January campaign. It’s a great chance for pubs around the country to showcase the great range of facilities and products they offer. And it’s a great chance for you to review your non-alcohol offer — are you stocking a good range of adult soft drinks; how’s your food offer looking?

We can kick against these kinds of campaigns, which is like trying to hold back the tides, or we can embrace them as an opportunity and try to turn a disadvantage to our advantage.

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