Blaze a trail: the pros and cons of being part of a pub crawl

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

Prenuptials: hen nights are just one cause of pub crawl
Prenuptials: hen nights are just one cause of pub crawl

Related tags: Pub crawl, Alcoholic beverage, Pub association, Bbpa, Tom stainer

A pub crawl may not be the best thing to happen at your business if you are worried about infringing licensing guidelines, but don’t dismiss the idea because a variation of the theme can bring great profit.

Pub crawls can only be positive for pubs, right? It seems that when organising a crawl customers travel to and from sites within the community, finding out what each site has to offer in an organised manner.

For example, gamers across the world were involved in pairing the 2016 summer phenomenon Pokémon Go with drinking through a pub crawl​.

Those same organisers have arranged for Disney fans​, who will dress up as their favourite fairytale character, to get involved in a magical pub crawl this month.

But such events aren’t always the laid-back, easy-going affairs they are designed to be.

Licensing expert Poppleston Allen solicitor Andy Grimsey warns operators of the dangers of being part of a pub crawl.

He says: “Licensees should be particularly careful if their pub forms part of a pub crawl.

“The usual precautions apply, for example, not serving anyone who is drunk, not offering any irresponsible drinks promotions or drinking games, and ensuring your age verification policy is strictly enforced.”

Don’t serve drunks

He adds: “Don’t fold under pressure – if someone is drunk, don’t serve them – they are unlikely to come to your defence when your licence is up for review.

“You also have a safeguarding duty to vulnerable adults when they are on your premises.”

However, it seems there could be an answer to pub crawl participants’ prayers with a twist on a classic.

“Ale trails and other more ‘sedate’ crawls present less of a risk but, again, the usual precautions apply,” Grimsey advises.

Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) head of communications Tom Stainer says pub tours and ale trails are a great way to encourage drinkers to explore and discover pubs in their area.

He adds: “When coupled with a theme, it can also open up pubs to a whole new audience that may not have considered them, for example: walkers, railway enthusiasts, those interested in heritage and history or even ghost hunters!

“There’s also a great social aspect to ale trails. Most CAMRA branches organise regular social events to encourage members and non-members to get out of the house, meet some new like-minded people and have an enjoyable evening talking and sampling good beer.”

Stainer also urges licensees to be aware of the possible risks and says the key to a successful event is moderation and responsible drinking.

“The most successful trails encourage people to use pubs over a longer period of time, for example a week or a month – this has the double benefit of encouraging responsible consumption as well as promoting pubs beyond a single night,” he adds.

British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) chief executive Brigid Simmonds encourages pubs to work together in a bid to attract more customers.

She says: “When it comes to pub crawls, we are all familiar with potential for pub visits that focus on a particular theme, be it literary or historic, but when it comes to the more spontaneous variety, licensees will need to be wary of anything that could encourage irresponsible drinking.

“Staff training should reflect this. The BBPA has been running a campaign on serving those who have had too much to drink and the need for both pubs and their customers to understand the law in this area.”

Profiling of tourist spots

Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) chief executive Kate Nicholls believes that tours can highlight the best of craft production in areas and can be helpful in profiling tourist spots.

She explains: “Pubs and bars can work closely with local authorities to boost tourism in towns and city centres, and initiatives such as craft beer and gin trails can be fantastic examples of the sector working harmoniously with local government for mutual benefit.

“The unique atmosphere of a pub is one of its greatest strengths, and measures to encourage customers to come into pubs can provide a welcome boost to trade.”

Nicholls criticises how pub crawls are portrayed and maintains that they can be used in a positive way.

“Pub crawls are often censured by the media as promoting irresponsible drinking habits when, actually, they can be very useful in promoting healthier attitudes to alcohol consumption. Licensees must abide by the mandatory conditions of the licence, and pubs and bars provide supervised environments in which people can have a great time and enjoy a drink,” she says.

Value of ale trails

The Jolly Crispin is often part of the Dudley ale trail, and licensee Robin Carey lauds the benefits of pubs being part of the tour.

He says: “It keeps things fresh and is a nice little boost on certain days.”

Carey explains drinkers come from a wide area to be part of the West Midlands-based trail and says the key to keeping everyone happy is to look after the regulars.

“It’s all about finding the balance between good service, ensuring locals and new people get what they want and making them all totally welcome,” he adds.

Carey is aware of the potential pitfalls of these types of events. However, he knows the difference between the ale trail and the pub crawl crowds.

He says: “Those on the ale trails tend to visit because they are genuinely interested in the beer and act accordingly.

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