Monday 28 September 2020

10pm pub closure - stupidity or hidden agenda?

The shape of things to come?
Like most people I know, I try to follow the CV19 restrictions and I can see the logic for many of them. In other words, I am not a Covidiot. That said, I have to say that the latest restrictions on pubs and bars seem guaranteed to achieve the precise opposite of the ostensible aim, i.e. restricting the spread of the virus.

Like most places, Southport where I live has a range of establishments where you can buy alcohol for consumption on the premises, such as pubs, bars, clubs, hotels, restaurants and micropubs. Their closing times are correspondingly varied from 10.00 p.m. to well after midnight. As a result, the times when people are leaving are automatically staggered over several hours.

Now we have the situation that all venues have to stop serving at 9.30 p.m. and be closed by 10.00 p.m. My first thought was that throwing everyone out on the streets at precisely the same time when previously they would have left in dribs and drabs over several hours was the height of uninformed stupidity, and if anything is likely to spread the virus. I heard on the news earlier today that Greene King have made a similar point, suggesting that many drinkers head straight for supermarkets to buy supplies to continue drinking at home with their friends, which would also help spread the virus.

But then I began to wonder whether it is stupidity, or is there another motive at work here? If this particular restriction does cause an upsurge, I am certain that the government will blame the pubs and not their own rules. They will then have the perfect excuse to close pubs down altogether. The question is: why would they want to do that?

I have long held the view that the Establishment in this country, supported by much of the media, does not like ordinary people gathering in large numbers. This has applied throughout history: for example, Peterloo, Chartists, suffragettes, the general strike, the miners' strike all led to vicious overreactions and clampdowns by the state. It is noticeable that certain sections of the Establishment and the media will always condemn any collective action such as a strike, regardless of the cause and how peacefully it is conducted - ordinary people acting together is anathema to them. I have been going on demonstrations since the 1970s, and I have never seen any trouble. However, you might have a couple of dozen hotheads on a demonstration of hundreds of thousands, and guess who the attention will invariably be focussed on?

What does all this have to do with pubs? Every day, in every town and city, thousands will go out for a drink in an environment that involves alcohol, and this spontaneous gathering of ordinary people is unwelcome in certain quarters, because it cannot easily be controlled. The fact that the vast majority of pub-goers are simply socialising and enjoying themselves is irrelevant to the mindset that I am describing.

What other evidence is there for hostility to pubs?

  • Beer tax in the UK is among the highest in Europe.
  • Business rates are set at unrealistically high levels.
  • There isn't much protection for tenants of predatory pub-owning companies. The minimal safeguards that do exist were grudgingly granted after the strenuous representations by pubcos resulted in the dilution of the measures to near worthlessness.
  • Alcohol in supermarkets is a fraction of the price of that in pubs.
  • 'Trouble' involving pubs is always given disproportionate prominence in the media. 
These could all be just coincidences, of course, and this CV19 measure which may well cause permanent pub closures could simply be yet another one, but I find that increasingly implausible.

Concerning the last bullet point: pre-CV19, I'd go out for a pint between four and seven times per week, rarely less, and it is quite literally decades since I have seen anything worse than the occasional argument. However, the repeated drip-drip reporting of pubs as dangerous places can put people off going to them. In my last job, some of my colleagues were amazed that I went into town every weekend: "You wouldn't catch me doing that!" is the kind of thing I tended to hear, and my argument that I never saw any trouble was disregarded. 

This CV19 measure looks likely to cause precisely what we are told it is intended to prevent. If pubs are blamed for an upsurge and are consequently completely closed down again, many will never reopen. I believe that some people in the Establishment would welcome that; in their eyes, the more people supping supermarket drink at home rather than gathered in groups, the better. Some politicians like to be seen in a pub quaffing a pint, usually with a big head*, to show that they are 'men of the people', and they usually are men. This is all just for show. If after CV19 we have lost whole swathes of our pubs, bars and clubs, some will be mentally punching the air and shouting, "Result!"

I also believe that, if they could get away with it, they'd have everyone watching sports, football especially, on subscription channels at home rather than in stadia.

Would they deliberately provoke an upsurge by this 10.00 p.m. rule? I wouldn't put it past a government that wanted the virus to sweep through the population, regardless of the number of casualties, to achieve the unproved aim of herd immunity. There was a report in the press, later denied, that an unidentified individual (although I can guess who) in a government meeting about the virus said it wouldn't matter very much if old people in care homes died of the virus, and it is a fact that for several months those homes received almost no help despite high mortality rates. So yes, I do believe they are callous enough to provoke an upsurge, blame it on pubs and close them down again. 

Even if you disagree with my opinion, this point remains: because this measure is seriously flawed, either they are stupid, or they have an agenda which, if you reject my speculation, is what?

I'd just finished writing this post when I noticed in the news today: Covid: Manchester mayor calls for 'urgent review' of 10pm closures

* I mean the pint rather than the politician.


  1. An excellent article Nev, and one that not only speaks for all who love pubs, but one which exposes and speaks out against the hypocrisy of HMG’s latest spiteful raft of legislation.

    Whether this really is the law of unexpected consequences or, more seriously a ploy, as you suggest, to pin the blame on pubs for spreading Corona virus, is open to question, but I find it hard to believe that government advisors didn’t stop to consider the effect of hundreds of pub goers, all spilling out onto the streets at exactly the same time.

    The cynic within me would agree with your reasoning Nev, that this is a none too subtle bid to shut pubs (and restaurants), purely to stop people socialising. Dressing this up as an anti-Covid measure simply doesn’t work, unless Johnson, and his boss Cummings think we’re all as stupid as they are.

    You and I have debated issue before, of governments throughout the centuries, seeking ways of preventing people from meeting up and discussing the events of the day, and the examples you give show exactly how the Establishment react when ordinary people decide they’ve had enough.

    The fact they are doing this against the background of a public health emergency whilst taking advantage of people’s willingness to help and “do their bit,” makes their double standards and underhanded approach all the more despicable.

    1. Thanks very much for that, Paul. I agree with you entirely.
      I posted this on Facebook and someone referred to conspiracy theories. I wouldn't say it's a conspiracy theory because, firstly, I provide other examples of an anti-pub mindset, and secondly, I accept the possibility that it's just incompetence, although my money's on my alternative explanation.

  2. Totlly agree about the restrictions being nonsensical but had attributed to politicians' stupidity and being totally out of touch with the world most of us inhabit. I note they didn't apply the restrictions in the House of Commons bars till shamed into it. But your analysis, always coherent and well expressed, Nev, of the more sinister picture certainly is worrying food for thought. Will be interesting to see how they respond to calls to review the policy which blatantly isn't working and never could have.

    1. My worry, Jean, is that any failure of the policy will be blamed on pubs and drinkers, not on the idiotic rule itself, and will be used as a pretext to close pubs altogether. I think there is a very good chance this will happen, regardless of whether or not my speculation about their anti-pub mindset is accurate.

  3. You know I am no fan of the government's Covid policy, to put it mildly, but I would attribute it mainly to cock-up rather than conspiracy. They are like rabbits in the headlights, paralysed by fear. Scientific advice on policy matters should never be considered in isolation without any regard to the economic or moral dimension.

    Politicians of all shades have never much liked pubs, especially wet-led ones. They are seen as something at best to be grudgingly tolerated. They pay lip-service to the abstract *idea* of pubs, but turn their noses up at the reality. Hence they are an easy target and end up being scapegoated. And half the population doesn't go to a pub from one month to the next and so aren't particularly bothered.

    1. We're largely agreed then. I don't expect everyone to accept my speculation that there may be sinister reasons for deliberately setting a restriction for pubs to fail. Nonetheless, whether you agree or not, this flawed rule does make long-term closures more likely.

  4. I'm not a lefty but if you and your trot pals want to use my shed when the pubs shut down, you're welcome. Bring you own cans, mind.

    1. Thanks, you're all heart. We might bring bottles rather than cans because the beer tends to be better.

    2. keep up with the conspiracy theories though, top stuff. proper USP for beer bloggery.

      don't join enough dots to connect it to the jews though fella or your mate Corbyn will want to attend your trot meetings

  5. 1. It is not a conspiracy theory. Conspiracy theorists believe without question what they propound, whereas I have presented two options, either of which could be correct. I think the sinister suggestion is a distinct possibility but, unlike conspiracy theorists, I'm not presenting it as fact.
    2. Corbyn is not my mate and I have never met him. I left the Labour Party after Bliar led the UK into invading Iraq. I currently belong to no party and am certainly not a Trotskyite.
    3. Talking about USPs for blogs, what have allegations of anti-Semitism got to do with beer or music? At least what you refer to as my USP relates to pubs.
    4. I suggest you take a bit more care with your 'witty' sarcasm.


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