Monday, 22 August 2011

No smoking in pubs - and no drinking either.

There aren't many vivid memories of childhood in my head. It was a very long time ago, you know.

One that remains absolutely clear to this day took place when I was around five years old. My brother and I were playing with toy cars on the floor when our grandmother came in. She spoke fluent Welsh, our mother wasn't quite so fluent and we kids only knew the swear words our grandmother used when we came in filthy. 'Mochyn' featured heavily.

Our grandmother said something in Welsh, in that little-old-lady 'isn't it terrible, ooo, scandal' gossip voice and our mother responded with 'Shh. Not in front of the children'.

We stopped playing and became absolutely attentive but since we couldn't understand a word, we still, to this day, have no idea what particular juicy scandal they had uncovered. The 'not in front of the children' was irrelevant and pointless because we didn't know the content of the conversation.

In much the same way, when we were given soft drinks and our parents had a snifter of booze, we didn't concern ourselves with their drinks because a) we were too busy checking that both our drinks were exactly the same size and b) we didn't know, or care, what was in our parents' glasses. Only what was in ours. They could have slugged down pints of gin and we'd have been none the wiser. (Actually we would have. They weren't big drinkers so they'd have toppled over in no time).

Now it seems that bar staff are beginning to decide for you what you can and cannot do in front of your own children. As Pub Curmudgeon reports, two women with their children were refused wine spritzers because the bar staff thought it inappropriate that they should consume alcohol while with their children.

Yes, it happened in a pub. The one place in the High Street you would visit if you felt like a drink. If you have children with you, too bad. One of the reasons for banning smokers from everywhere was 'for the cheeeeldren' and that's now the same for drinkers.

As the Curmudgeon says, this is a one-off. It is, however, not in the least bit surprising. For a long time now there have been reports of supermarkets refusing to sell parents a bottle of wine if they have a child with them. The decision is usually made by someone on the till who isn't much older than the child they're complaining about. It really was only a matter of time before the first instance of the pompous 'I know best' attitude appeared in a pub and I'm afraid I don't believe it will be the last.

Pubs are private businesses, as are restaurants - and the first restaurants to ban children have already been reported. That's spreading. It seems odd that a pub should choose to refuse to serve drinkers rather than simply to ban children but it's their business and they can ruin it any way they choose. It's not as if I'll miss another closed pub. They threw us smokers out years ago.

No doubt, when anyone with children can't get a drink in a pub, when the other clientele cannot get a drink if someone else's child comes in, then the loss of trade will be blamed on supermarket pricing. It cannot possibly be because the pubs have banned or alienated their remaining customers. It's someone else's fault. These days, it always is.

I don't own a pub, don't work in one, don't supply one, don't sell beer, and rarely visit any of them any more. Like those hotel rooms with the severe signs: 'No smoking, and the bathroom has a smoke detector so don't try sneaking a quick one in there', I don't go back to places that could not have been less welcoming if they had Basil Fawlty on the front desk or behind the bar.

The loss of the pubs is no loss to me. I lost that particular option for an evening out years ago. Now the antismokers, with their hideous smug smiles, tell us that we smokers are all little saddos who sit at home alone with a few cans of own-brand badger piss, watching TV and trying to stop the tears dampening our cigarettes.

We are told that it's our fault the pubs are closing because we refuse to visit places that treat us as if we were infectious. That we are weak because we enjoy a drink and a smoke and don't want to cut out half our enjoyment. That we are inferior because we are not smug, self-important arseholes like them. Okay antismokers, the pubs are all yours now. If someone refuses to serve you that's your problem. If it closes down and the staff who ejected us are out of work and the landlord is bankrupt, don't come to the smokers for sympathy.

You could have fought this ban, publicans. Instead you lobbied to extend it to all private clubs. We can't have a club that's for smokers only, that only employs smoking staff and that is situated so far out of town even the Dreadful Arnott couldn't smell anything. You did that to us, publicans. Don't ask for our support now.

In the beginning, a public house was just that. A private house in which the owner sold beer to anyone who happened by. He could allow or deny whatever he wanted, because it was his house, not the property of the State. That format, in general. continued up until a few years ago when the antismokers declared that the publican did not own the pub. They owned it, and they were going to decide who can and cannot visit. The pub industry did not say 'Go fuck yourselves, this is a private business and you're barred'. The pub industry said 'Oh, all right, and while you're at it, why don't you wreck the club business too?'

Now we are treated to the news of a Shenkerite deciding parental behaviour while in the pubs, which are moving from 'antismoker property' to 'antidrinker property'. I didn't even raise an eyebrow at the story. It was bound to happen. The only surprise was that it hadn't happened sooner.

Let's face it. The pubs are doomed unless a senior politician magically grows a brain or the pub industry realises that it's not the supermarkets taking their customers, but their own policies driving us away. Perhaps that will never happen.

In the meantime, we sad and lonely smokers have formed smoky-drinky. It's like the original someone's-house pub format with a few exceptions. There are no staff. No children. Nothing is on sale, we each bring supplies for the evening. No business is transacted there otherwise it becomes a 'place of business' and smoking would be banned.

It's also not open to the general public. It cannot be or the smoking ban kicks in. No membership, no fees, no defined premises. We take turns to act as 'pub'. Some are better at it than others so some get to host more evenings. It's developing, perhaps as the original pubs did, to the point where there'll be a regular 'public house' except it won't be public. Invitation only. And it's not easy to get invited. We'd like to allow more people in but the risk of an antismoker infiltration is too great, or of some self-righteous idiot deciding they're going to bring their children and demand that we can't smoke or drink while they're there. As it's a private house that would be easily and swiftly solved, but then they'd be 'offended' and we all know what that means.

One day, when the current pubs have been eradicated, the Dreadful Arnott has been staked out at the mouth of the Thames at low tide, Dim Shenker has been immersed in alcohol for posterity, and the madness subsides for a while, the Smoky-Drinky will be ready. Signs will appear, licences will be applied for, proper hand pumps and optics installed (we already have some optics but we don't use them for whisky because they're far too small), opening times established, ashtrays on tables and then new pubs will open.

Then Wetherspoons, Punch and the rest will start buying them and the whole circus will start all over again.

Well, we know what to do next time, so we can set up smoky-drinky as soon as the first stirrings appear. Next time we'll abandon the pubs the day the smoking ban is proposed rather than wait until it happens.

If we'd done that last time, things could have turned out very differently.


Twenty_Rothmans said...

>Like those hotel rooms with the severe signs: 'No smoking, and the bathroom has a smoke detector so don't try sneaking a quick one in there'

It's just as well that they give such comprehensive warning. The Westin in Sydney claimed a $300 fine for smoking in the rooms. It was $100 in the lift, so that's where I did it.

Also, they did not specifically rule out pouring milk into the carpet or putting prawn heads into the sofa cushions.

I would never countenance such a thing.

Curmudgeon said...

As I said in the comments on my own blog, I'm sure it was just a misguided rogue barman, but in general people who are being "over-zealous" are just pushing commonplace attitudes a bit too far, like a parking attendent who is a bit "over-zealous" in his enforcement of the rules. It's not something totally out of the blue; it assumes there is an acceptable degree of zeal.

I'm sure it was said of some members of the SS that they were "over-zealous" in their persecution of the Jews.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Nicely put, LI. Pub-goers really haven't yet understood how open they have left the gates to further 'interventions' into the pub industry. With the Health Act 2006 as a precedent, just about any law against personal health can be inflicted. As this incident shows, all they need do is invoke the children.

Will they ever recognise this? Not in a month of Sundays and beyond.

auntieban said...

The day of the astro-turfed demand for alcohol-free rooms in pubs (for the chiiildren) looms ever closer.

Jimmy Freedom said...

About smoky drinky. First of all, you're lucky. I don't know anywhere like that. I doubt most people do. Whenever I read about your get togethers I'm happy for you but the rest of us are still smoking at home, alone. As you know I tried to set up something like that on a large scale but nothing happened because most people who knew about it didn't quite understand it, and besides, not a lot of people showed interest anyway. If I could have promoted it better it might have been different. But then again I don't know.

Secondly, why worry about people spending money? It's someone's house. You do what you like. If I had something like that at my place I would make it clear that anyone wanting to sell anything in my place would be welcome to. It's bad enough that x million people are afraid to light up in a pub without also worrying about what they do at home. That's not the way to think. The smoking ban isn't particularly well enforced in pubs anyway, and it's not good for one's sanity to give even the slightest bit of thought to what might happen as a result of what you do at home. Nothing is going to happen. Nothing can happen. It's your house. Enough of all this scaredycat thinking. If you're going to do your own thing, you may as well do it properly.

Anonymous said...

”As the Curmudgeon says, this is a one-off.

For now. Just like, pre-ban, non-smoking pubs were a rarity.

And, Rothmans,

“Also, they did not specifically rule out pouring milk into the carpet or putting prawn heads into the sofa cushions.”

I’m sure that an egg sandwich sellotaped to the underside of a table wasn’t mentioned, either? (Be sure to make a vague comment about the “strange smell” on checking-out, so that the implication is that the sandwich has been there, undetected, for a while. Also a good tactic when you’ve had a sneaky smoke in a non-smoking hotel: “I thought those rooms were non-smoking? There was a bit of a smoky tang to mine. Nothing that bothered me that much, but …”

Anyway, who wants to take a punt on how long it’ll be before the first “alcohol-free pub” opens? My money’s on “within seven years.”

Leg-iron said...

I seem to remember something about an alcohol-free pub proposed in Cardiff, but I don't know if it went ahead.

Child-free rooms sound like a good idea. Drinking in one place, rugrats in another. Although that's not the aim. They could have opted for smoke-free rooms, remember.

Curmudgeon - she's not quite a solo act. Dick Puddlecote reprinted some of the comments at his place. There are plenty more where she came from.

Leg-iron said...

Jimmy - what people do and what they say they do on a world-wide accessible blog are not always the same thing ;)

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