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You won’t believe what the Brits want to do

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One of my favorite love-to-hate-them groups is the neopros (not to be confused with the neocons, although there may be some overlap). These are the neoprohibitionist types who are always looking to curtail alcohol use in any way they can. They’ve been particularly loud lately, and not just in America. From the continent of Africa to Australia and China, from Europe to right here, they’re active. Some of it is worthy: to stop binge drinking and alcohol abuse and, hopefully, cut down on drunk driving. But some of their latest stuff borders on the insane.

Take, for example, this report from Catersearch.com, an online hospitality industry site. It’s about a scheme the British government’s Department of Health is proposing. They issued a draft proposal that would

– ban happy hours
– prohibit waitstaff from pouring wine by the glass without first measuring the amount (I guess this means doing away with crystal stemware and using calibrated flasks instead)
– require every restaurant table to have a “responsible drinking” sign on it (maybe French Laundry can put them in little 24 karat gold frames)
– prohibit pubs from having “free for women” promotions

I checked out the actual provisions of the draft law at Britain’s Department of Health. There’s some good stuff in there, like training store staff not to serve underage or drunk people (same as Washington State is doing). But there are also some dumb proposals, like requiring off-premise stores to display alcohol only in designated areas. No more Chardonnay stacks by the lobster section or Cabernet near the chocolates! The new law also would compel pubs and restaurants to sell wine in small as well as large glasses. This is actually being done by smart restaurants already, but it shouldn’t be a government mandate.

The Department says it’s being forced to enshrine these practices into law because “voluntary agreements are not being followed.”

Pub owners are rightly concerned. The British Beer & Pub Association’s communications director told catersearch.com the new draft code “introduces a host of detailed regulations on the way every licensed business in Britain should be managed and run on a day-to-day basis, with all the accompanying enforcement and record keeping.” And more, that it would be onerous to “the entire leisure, tourism and hospitality business in the UK – hotels, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, historic houses, tourist attractions and late night food outlets.” Just what Britain, whose economy like ours is tanking, needs.

For crying out loud, England gave us Guinness and pubs! I hope the neopros on this side of the pond don’t push this kind of nonsense, and I don’t think they’d succeed if they did. But it won’t be for lack of trying.

  1. Hi Steve,

    England did not give anyone Guinness. It was Ireland. We’re a different country.

    Just like Canada and the USA.

    Other than that, I enjoy reading your blog ;)

    Lar

  2. Lar, my bad! Please accept my apologies. And thanks for reading my blog.

  3. Steve, don’t worry, twas in jest.

    Though speaking of draconian, we’ve just had our budget announcement and Excise Duty on a standard bottle of wine is being increased by 50 cent (that’s before 21% VAT).

  4. Lar – you beat me to the punch, i was about to stand up for Celtic pride as well!

    Guinness has been headquartered in London since before i was born, so maybe technically it was introduced to the US via England.

  5. Lar & Philip, next thing you know, you guys will be telling me the English didn’t invent whiskey!

  6. Steve,

    It’s interesting how Americans recoil at the notion of regulation in some sectors of our society and support regulation in others.

    By all indications, this country will choose a presidential candidate who openly supports regulations and restrictions in some key sectors. At the same time, we are appalled by notions of quality standards in wine and in wine writing, certification of purveyors of opinion on wine, imposing standards and regulations on quality and style of wine for each AVA and even things like public consumption and legal drinking age.

    It’s a paradox, if not a contradiction.

  7. Incidentally,

    “Whiskey” or “Whisky”????

  8. @Philip of course, it’s just another brand in the Diageo stable.

    @arthur Whiskey with an “e” for Irish,, Whisky without for Scottish.

    Interestingly, the Irish have started to make wine in the shape of Lusca, north of the capital in county Dublin.

  9. Lar

    I was trying to flesh out just this point. I guess neither Steve nor I know the emoticon for “tongue firmly planted in cheek”.

  10. Steve, I love your blog and hate to say it but I think you may have missed something here. I am sure that some of the measures outlined by the Dep. of Health may seem draconian and unnecessary (undoubtedly some of them are), but you have to bear in mind the difference between the pub and club culture in the UK and here in North America.

    As a kid growing up in the UK I was serving pints in a pub at the age of 16 and downing them even younger. Many pubs and clubs would struggle if they stopped serving under-aged drinkers so they actively encourage this patronage. Add to this the problem of driving while pissed out of your skull, and these measures seem less ridiculous.

    For example, do you know why clubs/pubs offer ‘free drinks for women’? The idea is to fill the pub with women/girls and use them as bait to pull in the heavier drinking males of the species. On one level this is an effective marketing ploy but the downside is that these women/girls/children are getting totally plastered and exposing themsleves to all kinds of risks. I am sure you get the picture.

    The pub culture in the UK has two sides – the friendly village pub where locals gather to discuss the latest gossip over a pint, and the city centre pub/club where fights break out regularly, semi-conscious girls are routinely assaulted in parking lots and alleyways, and patrons are encouraged to drink until they collapse, at which point they are thrown out the back door. I enjoy the first and am terrified by the second. Something needs to be done so I applaud the department of health for taking a stance. It may not be perfect but it’s a start.

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