Pubs are not a special case - so don’t target home drinkers
PUBLISHED: 10:16 07 September 2019 | UPDATED: 10:16 07 September 2019
I love pubs. With a little less self-discipline, I’d live in one.
I love the conversation, the fellowship, the history, the booze, the food, the quiz nights, the live music...everything.
I particularly love those pubs that have read the runes and evolved, providing what people want, not what they used to want in the 1950s.
But how far is it possible - or justifiable - to go to protect pubs from closure?
A think tank (no doubt full of some pretty brainy fish) has suggested alcohol in supermarkets should be taxed at a higher rate than booze sold in pubs.
According to the Social Market Foundation (SMF), a "pub relief" would make drinking at home less affordable and support the pub sector.
The idea is to shift taxation towards high-strength drinks bought to guzzle at home, away from weaker drinks bought in pubs and bars.
I'm calling "time!" on this, before it gets out of hand.
I object to having to pay more as part of a social engineering experiment to persecute home drinkers and prop up pubs.
It feels like robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Supermarkets (yes, even the Devil incarnate, Tesco) are as much a part of the community as pubs and shops. They help to drive the local economy, provide affordable food and other household goods in one place.
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They are also social hubs, where people bump into friends and neighbours. With so many post offices, banks and community centres closed, it's no bad thing to have these times of human society - even next to the loose vegetables.
Above all, they are damned convenient.
Sorry, however much we put on our sepia-tinted contact lenses and yearn for the days of high streets jam-packed with independent stores, these days we mostly want to get our shopping trolleyed, scanned, bagged, home and in the fridge in under an hour.
I also don't want to pay through the nose.
If I fancy an evening in with a couple of beers, I'll go to Tesco and buy a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and a Thornbridge Jaipur for under £5. If I fancy an evening out, I'll go to The Plasterers Arms or the Fat Cat Brewery Tap and buy a couple of pints for £5-plus each.
I expect to pay less to drink at home, because I do not operate a pub - with wages, overheads and the many attractions that are part of the offer. And I expect to pay more in pubs because they are awesome.
Unfortunately, pubs will never survive on sentiment alone. They are part of the ruthless capitalist system that means the survival of the fittest.
We have all seen countless examples in recent years of pubs shutting. Most of the time, it is because not enough money is being spent there - ie, they don't get enough customers.
It's sad, but sometimes it's because the landlords or owners haven't recognised or responded to changes in people's habits. It might be providing better food, giving the building a revamp, or improving the range of beers, gins and rums.
However much I love pubs, I object to the idea of artificially supporting them at the expense of others - supermarkets and their customers.
I reckon some of the most vibrant and switched-on pubs - including those mentioned above - would agree.
The sad truth is that many more pubs will close in the coming years. It sucks, but it's unstoppable.
The best ones will continue to thrive, regardless of whether cheap alcohol is available at Asda or Aldi.
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