Sunday, 23 January 2011

Wild West Chaos

Uncontrolled binge drinking
in the Guest House!
I've just read in the Champion, our local free newspaper, an article written by Jim Sharpe stating that if pubs serve drunks, they should be closed down. It's full of the usual misconceptions about pubs: it accuses them of causing weekend mayhem in town centres, under age drinking, spewing in the streets, and the more pubs are closed, he says, the fewer alcohol-related problems there will be. The article has all the hallmarks of someone who is not familiar with pubs.

I regularly go out to pubs in Southport, Liverpool and elsewhere, including at weekends, and I don’t see “drunks spewing (often literally) out of pubs”. Town centres are noisy and boisterous at weekends, but I can’t remember the last time I saw someone throw a punch.

Close a pub down if it serves a drunk, says Jim. Closing down a business, making people unemployed and in some instances throwing them out of their home as well would be a gross overreaction. It would also be penalising the wrong people. There are definitely health and anti-social behavioural problems associated with drinking, but pubs are generally not the cause. A lot of people have taken to preloading - drinking cheap supermarket booze before going out - but such drinkers are more likely to favour bars and clubs rather than pubs. Closing pubs won’t prevent under age drinking, because most under age drinkers get their booze from the off trade, not from pubs. If they do try to enter licensed premises, it's much more likely to be a club.

Most pubs, including so-called rough ones, keep order well. I know this is contrary to the Wild West chaos that Jim was trying to portray, but as a regular pub-goer since the 1970s, that is my experience. Pubs have enough problems with above-inflation tax, being overcharged by the pub companies and cheap supermarket prices. They are local businesses providing employment and regulated places where people can enjoy a few drinks and meet friends, and as such, they can do without being seriously misrepresented in the local press.

In my last job, some colleagues were aghast that I went into the town centre at weekends - "I wouldn't feel safe" I was often told. Their attitudes were shaped by the anti-pub propaganda of which Jim's article is just the latest example, but it's clearly having an effect as people are increasingly taken in by it. But the reality is that I don't feel at risk at all going to pubs, and the licensing authorities recognise this: clubs, kiddie bars and anywhere Premier footballers drink have bouncers on doors - pubs don't. In terms of safety, that tells you what you need to know.


  1. I stopped reading this idiot's articles over twelve months ago. OK, we can all see what he is trying to do, and to some extent it has worked because we are talking about it, but as I remember none of his articles had real depth. Each week he would rant on about a subject which was already in the public domain and therefore needed little research. The real problem of course is that some people will read him, and believe that what he writes is true.
    As you suggest Nevile the man is not familiar with pubs or the people who drink in them. If anyone knows this man, ask him when he was last in a pub at 10:00 pm.

  2. I did wonder whether it was sour grapes because of what happened to his dad all those years ago!

    Having spoken to several people about this article, I haven't found anyone who has a good word for the writer.

  3. RedNev's well composed, thoughtful and reasoned letter in response to Sharpe's inane piece has of course gone unpublished in this appalling penny dreadful of an excuse for a newspaper. Instead this half-wit of a 'reporter' devotes his column (in the Crosby edition at any rate)to telling us of how he slipped and injured his back whilst out dog-walking! Dullard doesn't even come near describing the man.

  4. I'll have to eat fabric - The Champ has now published RedNev's letter. Let the debate begin! Oh Sharpe, where is thy stinging response!?

  5. Printing my reply three weeks after the original article (when the topic is dead in the water) is hardly a debate, so I don't think you need to eat your bowler just yet, Clive.


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