Friday, 4 July 2014

Keep your hands to yourself!

A licensee, yesterday
Politicians can't resist meddling with pubs, can they? You'd think with the UK trying to act as the world's police force (or at least police dog to the world's police force, the USA), they'd have better things to do with their time, wouldn't you? Apparently not.

So what are they up to now? Changes are proposed to the Licensing Act 2003 that, if passed by Parliament, would oblige pubs and bars to display the price of the smallest unit of alcohol available “in a menu, price list or other printed material available on the premises”, and if customers doesn't specify a measure, to make them “aware these measures are available”. So when I go into my local and just say, "I'll have a Sandgrounder, please", bar staff would be committing an offence if they didn't tell me that it was available in thirds and halves, even though they know I mean a pint.

The trade is up in arms because:
  • There was no meaningful consultation with them.
  • The potential for entrapment by Trading Standards if the smallest unit wasn't offered when an officer hadn't specified a measurement. How easy would it be for busy bar staff to fall foul of the law?
  • Licensees would face extra costs, such as reprinting all their menus and price lists, and ensuring all staff are trained.
  • The proposal lacks detail - essential with legal requirements - and the timescale is ridiculously short (the implementation date would be 1 October).
  • The sector is already overburdened with regulation.
In relation to that last point, this proposal gives the lie to the government's claim that it wishes to lighten the burden on business, reduce the dead hand of over-regulation, et cetera ad nauseam.

I wonder whether a person found guilty of some alcohol-related offence could try to deflect the blame by saying he or she wasn't advised about smaller units. Not much of an defence in my opinion, but that wouldn't stop some trying it on and causing trouble for a licensee.

Quite simply, this proposal doesn't treat drinkers like adults. I just wish that politicians would stop patronising us and let us make our own choices.

You can tell the World Cup's over, at least as far as England is concerned: they're back to bashing pubs again - see my post of three weeks ago.


  1. It's commonplace in many pubs for customers to order "a bitter" or "four lagers", obviously meaning pints. Will bar staff be found at fault if they don't ask "halves or pints"?

  2. So it seems. Ridiculous, isn't it?


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