Cancer charity MacMillan has launched its annual Go Sober For October fundraising campaign, which encourages members of the public to be sponsored to avoid alcohol for a month.
More than 65,000 people took part in the month last year and raised £4.4m to help fund the charity’s support telephone line.
Tenanted pub company Trust Inns is supporting the month by promoting its food and entertainment offerings on social media.
Are you going sober for #October?— Trust Inns (@trustinnsuk) October 1, 2019
We have some advice for you!
And no, we haven't gone mad. We might have a portfolio of pubs, but we support #MacMillan. We want you to know you can go to the #pub, socialise, and not miss out!#SoberOctober#UKPubshttps://t.co/klBQv2cAR9
The company has also provided its operators with downloadable posters that offer suggestions of the type of promotions and message to use to ensure it has minimum impact on sales.
One Trust Inns site promoting the month is the Rake & Pikel, in Huntington, Chester, which is encouraging participants to come to the pub for an alcohol alternative and healthy meals.
Operator Ian Leuty said: “We thought rather than moan all month and say ‘it’s going to be quiet’, we would counteract that.”
The pub is offering a range of soft adult drinks as well as alcohol-free beer, cider and wine.
It is also working with three local slimming groups and all of its food specials will be recipes from their cookbooks for the month.
He added: “More and more people are doing the ‘sober October’ so it potentially can affect the business [of pubs]. We're lucky in the respect that we do a lot of food and are still busy with families.
“We just wanted to counteract the negativity and say ‘look, we are promoting sober October as well as our normal range’.
“Customers have been really positive. A lot of them are liking the fact that we are thinking outside the box.”
One micropub said it would raise money for the cause by donating 20p from every alcoholic drink to the charity.
Tubbs Pub, in Ewell, Surrey, urged its regulars to “help a charity without making yourself miserable,” in a Facebook post.
“We are a pub and make a living from people responsibly drinking alcohol. We are offering them the chance to carry on doing what they enjoy and still raise money for charity,” staff said on Facebook.
For other operators, the initiative comes as an added worry in the face of tough times for the industry.
Unhelpful for business
Paul Hurditch, operator at the Star, in Glossop, Derbyshire, said he thought many people who do not want to drink this month will avoid the pub altogether.
He said: “It's a struggle for everybody and then we have [Go Sober for October] plus Dry January.”
“As a publican, these organised things do not help us. I know it’s not supposed to help the trade but the bottom line is: as a business, or businesses, we raise millions of pounds for charity, in various forms – whether it’s as simple as a couple of boxes on a bar or people who do events.
“It's not something I’d go to the barricades over or anything like that. I'm not vehemently against it.
“I would think a lot of people not wanting to drink would not want the temptation [of the pub].
“Some people would disagree and say ‘I'm an adult, I can make my own decisions and I'll go in the pub and be quite happy to drink soft drinks for the next four weeks’.
“Obviously, if people want to cut back on alcohol – that’s fine, it’s not an issue. It is a personal issue, but to have organised things in October and then again in January doesn't help the trade.”