An artisanally crafted blog curated by Cooking Lager for discerning readers of beer bloggery

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The irresponsible on trade.

One of the main reasons given by those that wish to see minimum pricing for my lovely cheap super market lager advocate that cheap alcohol is irresponsible and results in pre loading. That is necking alcohol prior to a night out and heading out drunk. I have always considered this a dubious argument. If heading out “on the piss” rather than a sedate civilised drink, the idea of getting pissed beforehand is none to wise. I have trouble keeping pace as it is, starting off pissed is a no no.

The argument has struck me as nothing more nor less than an attempt by pubs and bars to deflect attention from there own irresponsible retailing of alcohol to drunks whilst trying to kybosh what they see as competition from supermarkets. An attempt to make price the determinant of responsibility rather than the action of selling a drunk another drink.

If you want to read stories of binge drink Britain and the outrage it creates in polite society then the Daily Mail must be the paper of choice. A link to a recent binge drink Britain story here.

The usual stuff. Pissed up younger drinkers, vomiting and that recent phenomenon of great public outrage “pissing on a war memorial”. I seek to defend none of it, but offer the view that the article would by its nature concentrate on the few that caused problems rather than the many more that went out, got pissed, pulled if they were lucky, fought with no one and vomited nowhere, and learnt the hard way that the next morning getting pissed gives you a hangover. Young lads and lasses have a nice night out isn’t news. Pissing on a war memorial is news.

I have never been on a carnage night out, and frankly would not want to, but it does remind me of a Club 18-30 holiday I once went on when I was single where one of the excursions was a paid for pub crawl. The lads fancied a week in Ibiza and for whatever reason Club 18-30 was cheap. Cheap because the hotel was a dump, but we had a nice time. I pulled, as did a few mates, and those that didn’t were the lads you were not expecting to pull anyway and can’t pull for toffee in England. I also got pissed every night.

We didn’t go on the paid for pub crawl excursion figuring it wasn’t difficult to punt yourself around the local bars and spend the money on lager. We ran into the excursion and the guy running it collared us with “your drinking from your left hand, you have to down it in one”. I replied “No I don’t, I’m not on your excursion, I’m just out with my mates” When he tried further to engage us in jolly banter my mate Cockney Dave said to him “No offence pal, but we’re on the pull, and we’re in with these scouse lasses, so why don’t you piss off back to the kids that need a guided pub crawl and leave us to it”. He turned and went. That is my only experience of a guided pub crawl, not going on one.

Back to the Daily Mail outrage, I have a few questions to ask.

Aqua Lounge club boss Victoria Andrews told the paper: 'When we hear it is going to be a Carnage night, we despair.'

Really? Why is that then? You don’t have to serve a bunch of kids with carnage t-shirts on, you can ask them to leave. Not let them in. If you don’t like it, don’t co-operate with it. Oh, I forget, you’d like to flog these kids a drink and let them know about your bar because they will be studying in the area for the next few years and presumably will want to go out for a drink again. This won’t be the first and last night out for the new students. This is your new trade. Okay then, but you don’t have to serve drunk people do you?

As for how they got drunk. Are we really saying the problem is a drink the kids may or may not have had before going out? Or is the problem of pissed up kids pissing on war memorials the last drink they were served?

If publicans wish to present themselves as the responsible face of alcohol retailing, they might want to do the following. Stop serving drunk people, and shut the fuck up about irresponsible cheap supermarket lager.

Anyway I can’t write this tosh all day, I’ve got 24 cans of cheap Carling to neck and a war memorial to piss on.


The Beer Nut said...

Hear hear!

Can we have a guest post from Cockney Dave?

Cooking Lager said...

Cockney Dave isn't a cockney in the bow bell sense of the word, he's just a bloke from London we let hang out with us as we're modern men who are not prejudiced about soft southern puffs. I also have a Greek mate who isn’t Greek. Strange old world.

Professor Pie-Tin said...

I can forgive you almost anything Cookie.
But tupping Scouse women ?
Have you got no standards at all !

Ken Davidson said...

I have been pissed at many times during my life. I have never once felt like desecrating a war memorial. The problem isn't the last pint the culprits were served, it's how much of a scumbag they are before they go out that counts.

Cooking Lager said...

Are they really scumbags Ken? Could they not be naive and stupid and with little appreciation of the sacrifices those of previous generations have made for them? I doubt you can wholly remove alcohol from the equation. Alcohol changes mood and removes inhibition. Maybe they want to shock and offend, and that is the purpose? I’m not disagreeing, maybe they are scumbags. Either way, the on trade sold them there last irresponsible drink.

Séan Billings said...

The topping up argument is absolute nonsense and the fact that the on trade use it to call for a hike in off trade prices is short sighted to the point of blindness. What do they think will happen if they get their way, off trade prices go up and then, SHOCK RESULT, it doesn't make binge drinking magically disappear? Who do they think will be the next target?

Different sections of the drinks industry blaming each other for binge drinking. The neo-prohibitionists must be laughing their holes off (if they weren't a bunch of joyless dry shites).

I agree that pubs should refuse to serve someone who is obviously drunk, but that does not mean pubs should be blamed for the actions of pissed people. If someone decides to get pissed, that is their responsibility and their actions while drunk are down to them too.

Cooking Lager said...

I don't disagree, Sean, with the notion of personal responsibility. However alcohol is a controlled and licensed product, as it does alter mood, inhibition and as a consequence behaviour.

The history of alcohol licensing is a direct result of the gin epidemic recorded by Hogarth and the view that the state needs to apply a measure of control over who can sell alcohol and when they can sell it. Tax has traditionally been the tool to control price. The government didn't opt to educate the ignorant and improve personal responsibility, they opted to shut down the gin shops.

Does the argument of personal responsibility (whilst valid) give licence to on trade alcohol retailers selling drink to drunks whilst directing the blame at Tesco and other responsible retailers of dirt cheap lout?

Séan Billings said...

Oh I agree that selling alcohol to someone who is already drunk is irresponsible, but that does not put the blame for that persons subsequent actions on the person who sold them the last drink.

You can't always tell how drunk a stranger is and in a crowded, noisy pub it would be even harder. With the best will in the world, it is very difficult for busy, bar staff, who may be young, not particularly bright or not very observant, to ensure that booze does not get into the hands of drunks. If a group of lads is sitting at a table and one of them gets a round in, how is the barman to know if one of blokes still at the table is three vodka and redbulls ahead of the bloke ordering?

I'm not saying that every pub landlord takes his duty of care seriously, I'm sure there a lots of greedy gits who will sell to anyone with the cash, but even a landlord who does take his responsibility seriously is at the mercy of his staff and the circumstances of the evening. To blame such a person for the actions of people who may have bought a drink or two out of ten off him is just as unfair as blaming supermarkets for what happens at or after a house party.

The blame for drunken behaviour belongs with the drunk in question. Anything else leads to "It's not my fault, I was drunk."

Curmudgeon said...

"a bunch of joyless dry shites" - what a wonderful phrase :-)

WV = "licked"

Cooking Lager said...

I have to agree with you Sean. The pub trade cannot act responsibly. The business model doesn't allow it.

The idea of a cosy bar where the landlord knows his punters, knows how much they've had and says "isn't it time to head home, Stan, you've had enough?" is not the actual world.

The world of the on trade is one of not knowing your customers, not knowing what they have had either in your own establishment or others, and being unable to avoid selling drunks drinks as they will be in rounds with other people.

The on trade appears endemically irresponsible, and the only answer is to close the pubs and bars or "gin shops", and encourage safe responsible home drinking of cheap lager.

Curmudgeon said...

The idea of a cosy bar where the landlord knows his punters, knows how much they've had and says "isn't it time to head home, Stan, you've had enough?" is not the actual world.

Actually, most pubs are like that to a large extent. The problems you refer to are confined to a relatively small number of town and city centre venues which, in their general style and presentation, do seem geared to the promotion of excessive and uncontrolled drinking.

Tandleman said...

Fair enough Cookster. Until the last point. Irresponsible drinking in the on trade can be curbed. It just needs existing powers to be exercised. That they aren't is a question that needs an answer.

I think though that pre loading IS a problem, but it can be deflected off our streets by sorting out the venues that serve drunks.

There's a lot of issues, but the police have to sort out the pubs that continually spew forth drunks and the Licensing Authorities need to get a grip too.

Tom Mann said...

I pre-load, as it were. The only reason being, it's cheaper to drink at home. If booze at pubs was the same price or cheaper, me and my mates would just go out earlier and still drink the same. And anyway, if 50p is made the minimum, a 4 pack of Fosters will still be about £4, still a lot less then half the price of a pint down my local.

Anyway, sainsburys has 24 Fosters for £12 at the moment, as well as 3 tins of Ye Olde hotdogs for the price of 1.

Cooking Lager said...

That's a beer and food match heaven, Tom.

Mark, said...

Pre-loading isn't a myth. I've done it, seen it and still see it all the time. It's not the entire picture though and elements of the on-trade can be very irresponsible.

Part of the problem is that some people are scumbags before they drink (I'm gonna label those the ones that end up fighting) and part of the problem is that some people drink too much (these are the otherwise nice, normal citizens who are young, naivé and drink far too fast for their bodies, resulting in piss, vomit and smashed car wing mirrors).

There's no silver bullet, a holistic approach to educating, serving and dealing with our drinking culture is required. We drink to get drunk, and therein lies one of the underlying themes to all kinds of alcohol abuse, whether a retired GP who has 6 whiskeys for breakfast or a student who ends up having their stomach pumped every Wednesday.

Publican Sam said...

Call me old fashioned, but when I took my first jusctice's licence (remember them?) some 30 years ago I was warned quite clearly by the bench and the local police that drunkeness wouldn't be tolerated ... I for one (and I know many colleagues like myself) have never had trouble or lack of bottle to tell anyone they've had enough or are too drunk to be served when they've first approached the bar.

I agree it's all about personal responsibility but have to say that if we were to run promotions at the same rate as supermarkets (not that any pub can afford to) then our licence could (and in many cases would) be up for review

Whether you acknowledge it or not "pre-loading" is a problem for pubs and bars and I believe it is as a direct consequence of below cost pricing in the off-trade. They're almost as bad as arms dealers - no end-user certificates et al.

Cooking Lager said...

I'm pleased you run a responsible gaff, Sam, but it appears contrary to yourself and Mudges perspective that responsible gaffs are “in the majority”, the problem of drunken anti social behaviour is more related to pubs serving drunks than supermarkets flogging my lovely cheap lager.

If I drink too much cheap lout, I go upstairs to bed and the squeeze moans at me. The drunks pubs serve are a problem in the streets.

Publican Sam said...

I fear you may be in the minority in terms of tottering off to bed when you've had enough. Although anecdotal I have regular customers who are serving police officers and a nurse manager from our local A&E ... whilst they acknowledge that much of their "trade" comes from pubs/clubs, when questioned about how much to drink and where they drank it a disturbing majority admitted that they were "well on the way" before even leaving home for a night out.

The problem of alcohol abuse is not going to be solved by putting the blame solely on the off or on trade - but surely selling below cost has to be a morally bankrupt practice or at the very least questionable?