Saturday, 24 July 2010

The decline and fall of the Pubco Empire.

No visit to Smoky-Drinky tonight. I spent much of the day battling the weeds, and am knackered. Battle will have to resume tomorrow because the warm and wet weather means they're winning. I don't want to use Chemical Death Spray in places where I'm growing edibles so it's up close and personal, this war. Somehow that feels more satisfying. A pile of weed corpses and a clear patch of brutally depopulated soil brings out the Genghis in me. Tomorrow I might go for the Vlad approach and impale all the thistles on sharpened bamboo. Well, if I have to do it, I might as well enjoy it.

On the lawn I use Verdone Chemical Death because I don't eat grass. Great stuff. It kills them slowly so the grass has time to fill in the holes. I can watch the swines shrivel and die over days while cackling like Torquemada. But enough of these ramblings from a herbicidal maniac.

Smoky-Drinky has spread further and faster than I'd imagined. The Telegraph even has a Pub Shed category in its gardening section (tipped by Lilith). The antismokers will say 'that doesn't prove it has anything to do with the smoking ban' to which I must respond - why else would anyone do it? My non-smoking neighbour has a bar in his house but not in his shed. I have considered one in the shed but not in the house. Why? Because smokers know what's coming next. No point building a bar you soon won't be allowed to smoke in.

As Mr. A points out in the comments, the downside of Smoky-Drinky is that it can't be open to the public. The only new people you'll meet are friends of friends. No random conversations with tipsy strangers. That will change in time but for now, we have to be careful. If a malicious and spite-driven ASH homunculus manages to just walk in and isn't challenged and ejected, they will argue that we are 'open to the public' and wham - no smoking. Don't expect any court in the land to take the smokers' side, no matter how ludicrous and trumped-up the charge.

The pubs are dying. Some apparently welcome the bitter embrace of a plain and monochrome Puritan future which doesn't include them but others are trying their best to keep the customers the Government has banned. If I lived near this pub I'd visit often. Until the first antismoker whine about smoking outside. In the absence of any support from the pub - in the form of telling the hideous harridan to stop harassing their customers, or at least a sign to that effect - it would be my last visit.

It's not just the smoking outside all winter that gets to me. It's that in summer, when it's actually nice to go outside, those of us who supported the pubs through the cold and the wet have no reciprocal support at all when the antismokers come outside and harass us out there too.

We're not going to get the pubs back from the Righteous until they are totally broken. Until pubs whose customers drive there close down because those customers can't drink anything at all, so they stop bothering. Until the minimum pricing makes that one-visit-a-week into one-a-month.

In fact, nothing will ever change as long as one-man operations are closing. The only way to get the pubs to sit up and take notice would be to bring down a big chain like Weatherspoons or Harvester. I don't need to boycott them. I've never visited their pubs anyway. They don't look like any pub I'd want to visit. Pubs with swings and slides in the garden are not for the likes of me.

The pubcos tend to be town-centre operations. Few of their customers drive, and they can afford to set up smoking areas. They are happy to see the competition wiped out by these controls and bans. As long as they are profiting, the controls will continue.

Yet it will take the total collapse of the pub, restaurant and possibly hotel trade too before anyone in the Coagulation takes the slightest notice of what the smokers (and increasing numbers of non-smokers) are saying. Forget Labour. They will continue to follow the ASH line that there is no effect on pubs even when there isn't a single pub left in the country.

Increasingly, it looks as though the Coagulation are just as entranced by the Dreadful Arnott and her sultry linen bloomers. No, they are not blue with 'Sunday' written on them. They are brown, with 'February' written on them. This woman has control over the thoughts of the Cleggeron to an extent that makes me suspect witchcraft. We can't burn her unless we do it outside. Personally I'd like to coat her entirely in nicotine patches. Then we'd see just how addictive it really is. But that will have to wait.

If we want the pubs back, we have to bring them down. Not the local pub, owned and run by Angus McFlatulent and the only pub in the land selling Jock McSquirty's Bowel Purger, but the big ones. The ones run by suited money-counters. The ones who see their customers not as people, not as friends and regulars, but as monetary units. If their monetary units start to decline then, and only then, will the lobbying change and the Dreadful Arnott be toppled from her broomstick.

Those are the ones who have the ear of the Cleggeron and they are delighted to see small rivals pushed out of the market. CAMRA are fools, the pubs and breweries they want to see survive are the very ones the pubcos want destroyed. CAMRA have played along with all the controls, thinking it won't affect them. 'Can't drive after one pint now that the limit is reduced? Take public transport,' they say, ignoring the detail that public transport to rural areas doesn't generally run much after 7 or 8 pm, and doesn't always stop near the pub anyway. Just as they declare the smoking ban irrelevant, they will declare the tighter blood-alcohol limits irrelevant. Until the small breweries start closing and then they'll shout and scream - but they still won't blame the smoking ban or the drink-drive limits.

Outside smoking areas provided by pubs are all well and good but they should not be necessary. They certainly should not be subject to the 50% rule that demands the smokers are exposed to the elements. there is no logical reason to demand that. It is pure spite.

Outside smoking areas are not even outside smoking areas all year round. When the weather is terrible, then those antismokers are happy to see us shivering out there. When it's fine, they want the outside areas as well as the inside ones and we are expected to just get out of their way.


If a pub wants smoker business then smokers must demand year-round support. If the pub is happy to let its fine-weather customers abuse its year-round regulars then smokers should simply stop going.

We are not going to get the pubs back until the entire industry is broken. The sooner it is broken, the sooner we get it back and can start fixing it. There will be losses to small pubs but that is going to happen even if we sit back and accept all the bans. We won't save the pubs by being meek and subservient. We have Smoky-Drinky, the antismokers have the pubs. All of them.

We cannot have it back whole but we can have it broken.

So let's break it.


Anonymous said...

Putting one outside into harsh weather has a name for it. It is called punishment conditioning. By trying to make enjoyable cigarette a pain (not to mention the health hazards of possible bird flue) we create a method of gettng the dmoker to try to use our smoking cessation drugs. Yes we care so much for profit we charge 500 times more for the drugs than manufacturing cost! Shhh we could give it smokers as a pu lic service free of charge but how could we finance more bans and punishment conditioning?

Anonymous said...

LOL we could have smoky-drinkies with restaurant!

F2C would be a great place to publicise a smokey-drinky.


Curmudgeon said...

Thanks for the links :-)

The pub with the extensive smoking shelter that I pictured is actually the Holden Arms at Haslingden - it's just what came up when I typed "pub smoking shelter" into Google Images.

This blog posting rather bears out your thesis.

PT Barnum said...

You mention in passing an issue that has become a great bane in my life, and which hasn't had much coverage - the problem of finding a hotel which has rooms in which one can smoke. All central London hotels (in my price bracket) are now smoke-free, as are all the large motel chains across the country. And, as I learned from the staff from my former regular haunts, the hotels are checked every week to make sure they are not allowing filthy dirty smoking anywhere on the premises.

I now have a small list of hotels that don't hate me. Oddly, I need to book a long way in advance to get a room in some of these rather out-of-the-way places. Can't think why.

Ken said...

I like the idea of decamping to the bothan and letting the pubs go under. They didn't stand up for us, so fuck 'em.

Anonymous said...

The pubs treated their old faithful regulars abysmally, so let them go to the wall.

Regardless of the time of year, I don't pay anybody money to shove me out of their door on to the street. It's like paying to be ethnically cleansed.

Oh, and the non-smoking clientele who promised to replace us aren't showing up after all?

Good. I never thought they would.

This should act as a lesson to anyone who looks at a market sector with an established clientele, and decides to replace it with some other nebulous group of new customers. You really have to be brain dead to do that. Catching new customers is always much more expensive and difficult, than keeping the ones you already have.
Or in this case "had". I've got a long memory.

Leg-iron said...

Anon - the punishment conditioning worked. I'm conditioned not to go to the pub.

Anon2 - smoky-drinky with food is the next logical step. Then the restaurants will squeal about how garden produce is cheaper than their meals.

Curmudgeon - yes, the pubs around here became much quieter after the ban. One ejected a friend of mine for holding an unlit cigarette 'in case he lit it'. needless to say, we have never been there again and won't go back there if the ban is lifted and they give out free tobacco.

PTB - smoking hotels are getting rarer. What we need are tents.

Ken - many pubs simply pretend it's all about supermarket booze. If supermarket booze was the same price as in the pub, I'd still drink at home. They just won't see it.

Anon 3 - Smokers here were okay with standing outside at first but successive winters (and especially the last one) are proving too much for even the stalwarts. Being harangued in the beer garden all summer, then shivering all winter, is bringing more and more to their senses. The pubs are doomed unless they see sense. They have to. The government never will.

banned said...

@The Pub Curmudgeon, most of my local independent pubs have gone to great lengths to provide shelters and heating for smokers; Wetherspoons have made very little effort apart from a few umbrellas while Harvester have made no provision at all, zilch.

The 5 pubs that have closed since the ban were all working class boozers in Victorian suburbs, none of which had any outdoor space in which to erect shelters.

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