Thursday, 2 February 2012

Once Upon A Time Please

So pubs are responsible for this binge drinking culture are they?

Let's look at this. By binge drinking culture they mean drunken yobs causing mayhem late at night.

Pubs are to binge drinking what motor racing is to speeding motorists and David Cameron is to the NHS. To blame the pubs is both wildly unfair and narrow-minded. They are the easy target for politicians. On one hand they say they back the great British pub and on the other they do their level best to close every last one of them! The real cause of this so called culture is twofold in my opinion. 

One is the conditioning and upbringing of the youth and the other is the supermarkets.

I'm not going into the former, suffice to say that I was dragged up right and know not to get drunk and commit criminal acts.
However on the latter I have plenty to say, so I'll begin!

Once upon a time, a man (or woman) bought his (or her) meat at the local butcher (or butch-him), groceries at the local grocer, bread at the local baker & his (or her, unless they were in Plumb Street Miners) beer at the local public house. Then along came an evil giant called a supermarket who took all the business away from all of these places except the pub.

Over the years the lowly butchers, bakers and indeed candlestick makers all but disappeared. Once they were on every corner. I can even remember about 4 or 5 butchers on Colne Road, Burnley just between Duke Bar and Queensgate. 
Strangely, the convenience of the Supermarket was the main reason. If you think about this it’s actually counterintuitive. People were travelling past their local grocers to get to a Supermarket!

Pubs however, battled on. How could a Supermarket affect the on-licence trade?
All day drinking came in in the early nineteen nineties and gave boozers a timely boost.
But around that time a can of beer in a shop would cost you only slightly less than that of a draught pint in a pub. 
Here lies the problem. 

Fast forward twenty years to the present day and you’ll find that a can of beer in the shop is still about the same price as it was then. However, the price of a pint in the pub is probably about six times that of a can.

Does that mean that pubs are ripping off their customers? No it certainly does not. They will probably be making less actual gross profit than they did twenty years ago. Supermarkets however, are making no profit at all, and in some cases are actually making a loss. 

How can this be fair?

The effects of increased taxation, the smoking ban and widespread sky sports subscriptions have driven people indoors.
Supermarkets are relying on cheap booze deals to “hook” customers in. They subsidise this with increased margins on other items. Their buying power is so large that they can afford to do this. 

There has been talk of minimum pricing. This won’t work. How can it? It’s technically price fixing, which is against EU law.

The trouble is really caused because people, especially young women, are loading up at home before hitting the town. Downing bottles of cheap supermarket wine and vodka.

The Supermarkets have no control over this unlike a pub, where drinkers are regulated by competent people who have had to sit an exam. There is rarely trouble inside pubs. People who are drunk or whose behaviour is not acceptable will be ejected.


Why should pubs keep taking the flak for so called “binge drinking” when they are not the cause?

And what can be done? Well I have two answers. 

Firstly the government should actually increase tax on canned and bottled beers. More so on canned session lagers such as Carling and Fosters. This would mean that the Supermarkets MUST pay a higher price and therefore if they still retail these products as loss leaders they will at least be priced more favourably. We currently have different tax rates for different types and strength of beers so there is no reason why this couldn’t be possible.

At the same time they should reduce the tax on Cask and Keg beer. This will in turn mean that pubs can reduce their retail price while keeping their margins and further close the gap on Supermarkets.

My other cunning plan is to beat the Supermarkets at their own game. J D Wetherspoon’s for example has over 800 sites with many on the high-street. Why don’t they start selling groceries??


Think about it. They get daily deliveries already so what’s stopping them selling bread, milk, cheese or tins of beans for example?

Hands up all those who would rather nip to the pub for a loaf of bread rather than to TESBURYS?

Exactly, and we all live happily ever after.

The End