OPINION: Be healthy, but don't leave pubs high and dry this January

Rachel Moore says even if you're doing Dry January you can still have a meal in a pub and a soft drink

Rachel Moore says even if you're doing Dry January you can still have a meal in a pub and a soft drink - Credit: Getty Images/iStock

Imagine running a pub – the business that feeds your family and pays your bills – limping out of the second Covid Christmas to the pious proclamations of Dry January.

Talk about kicking people when they’re down, then rubbing salt into their wounds.

Ditching alcohol for 31 days might be commendable in health terms, and good for the post-festive wallet, but for landlords and publicans it’s like giving them a big New Year V sign, especially when regulars bounce back in March after their New-Year-New-You (is there any more irritating phrase?) ‘sin’ purge to find the door locked and shutters up.

“What a shame. We loved that place. Pity they couldn’t make it work,” they moan to their friends, oblivious to the blood on their hands.

All it takes is Sunday lunch with a couple of non-alcoholic gins and wines through January with those friends to help make a make-or-break difference to a business.

It’s crunch time for so many pubs. Without our support we could watch them collapse one by one threatening the future of what has become an essential part of the fabric of life in Britain, and one we’ll miss like no other.

Pub takings in the run up to Christmas fell by as much as 60% compared with the same period in 2019, for the second year, and their most lucrative time. On their knees and we could all do our bit to help.

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Publicans and landlords are exhausted and feel spent. They’ve worked so hard to stay relevant, to draw in new customers, reinventing to offer so much more than a fully stocked bar.

Working in hospitality is a thankless task at the best of times, they’re taken for granted when it’s there, and mourned when it’s gone.

Pubs have transformed themselves in the last few decades. We only need to look to enduring soaps like Coronation Street, EastEnders and Emmerdale, all centred on the local pub, all which started out as drinking dens.

Imagination, drive and ambition of landlords has pushed the evolution to basic pub grub menus, through the ‘gastropub’ stage to the now warm family venues with varied menus of delicious home cooked dishes to challenge decent restaurants, child-friendly, dog-friendly, where people can drop in for a coffee and cake and meet a friend, hold family celebrations and even work meetings.

What more can they do to cope with Covid, so Dry January feels like an insult.

Dry January is tiresome, its main embracers those who are back three sheets to the wind every weekend in the first week of February, so what’s the point?

Moderation and a more measured approach to everything is the way to long-term change, even medical evidence says that drinking in moderation is more sensible than abstaining for an entire month then bingeing, but some people are all or nothing.

For publicans, their nothing could mean the last nail in the coffin after another disastrous Christmas without the cash reserves they once saved to see them through the quiet January and February missing, and all in the face of rising rents and losses from the last few years.

The steepest rise in alcohol sales came from people drinking at home during lockdowns that fled to hospitality venues to close.

No one’s asking people to drink to excess, just to view the pubs how international visitors that seek them out and love them, as real community assets and far more than an alcohol service.

Use or lose them. They sell alcohol-free beer, gin, wine, beer and sparkle too.

On a New Year beach walk, we popped into a lovely village pub, empty apart from a few locals at the bar. The landlord said he was grateful for the sunshine in the hope a few other dog walkers might pop in. The struggle for a few extra pounds in the till was tangible.

For those communities that can remember what it’s like lose a pub and had to revive it by taking it on as a community concern, their community-run pubs are thriving because they have a stake in its future and understand life without it.

We’re all in this together, we’re told, so do your bit, pop in, even as a fervent Dry Januaryer, for any drink, food and game of darts or pool.

You'll get the same results Dry January promises - a mood boost, better sleep, weight loss, brighter skin, stronger immune system, and feeling better in the morning and all by contributing to save something precious.

Homes obsession is silly

Is there anything more irksome than the house-basrrassment TV ad, especially the woman on the work video call being shamed about her kitchen?

If people judge us on the condition of our kitchen cupboards or bathroom floor, they’re not friends and have no place in our lives.

All this does is encourage debt to impress people not worth a place in their lives.

This obsession with homes reached a pinnacle on the BBC’s Inside Dubai programme, where we saw “show kitchens” and “dirty kitchens”. The gleaming show kitchens that never see a saucepan and the behind-closed-doors dirty versions are where the servants make the food.

Watching both with my youngest son this week after chatting about global poverty, he summed up perfectly these values: “I hate the world.”

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