Reader Soapbox

16 July 2004
Reader Soapbox

The current debate over the UK's fall into depravity through binge drinking is nothing new; we have been getting legless for hundreds of years.

In the early 20th century, it was not unusual for a gentleman to drink half his body weight in beer, claret, port, gin, rum, whisky and anything else he could pour down his neck. Today, due to the demands on most people's time, we have to cram all our drinking in on a Friday or Saturday night.

However, a moral majority, coupled with media frenzy, has thrust drinking into the spotlight. So let's look at how and why.

With the high street being such a competitive area for bars to operate, discounting is logical. Venues that can hold twice as many people as others will make just as much money by discounting drinks and having happy hours. And the punters will go where they can get more for their money.

Most people in the UK work until 6pm - that leaves five hours' drinking time. And we have only 20 minutes to leave the premises when last orders are called, so drinks have to be finished quickly. Then everyone piles on to the street at the same time and, if we are a little intoxicated, altercations happen.

Most owners are not usually on site, and therefore not in a position where they have to be responsible for the conduct of guests. Bartenders are left without proper training to deal with over-excited guests.

As an industry, we should do something about it before the Government makes the decision for us.

First, ban happy hours and discounting in general. Let's encourage our guests to drink less but better. Also, don't take out all the chairs and stools to allow more people in the bar. People who sit drink more slowly, and tend to stay in the venue longer (and spend more).

Change the hours of business and avoid the "it's almost last orders, let's get a round of shots" mentality by closing later. If bars closed at different times, there would be fewer people on the streets and more chance of getting a cab.

Finally, train bartenders in responsible bartending, how alcohol affects people and how to manage intoxication. This should be an industry requirement for bar personnel. This will allow the bars to retain control over how people behave in their establishments and, we hope, deter the Government from imposing sweeping changes on the industry.

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