Oldham and alcohol – cutting through the spin

August 11, 2009 at 22:00 (Uncategorized) (, , , )

After watching extracts of BBC1’s Panaroma yesterday you would be forgiven for thinking that this great country of ours was either taking yet another fateful step up Adolf Hitler’s arsehole or alternatively descending into the donkey humping, vomit spewing, virgin sacrificing armpit of Satan himself.

We have a choice ladies and gentlemen, its either dictatorship or chaos.

The catalyst for this hand wringing, in case you’ve missed it, is Oldham county council’s decision to introduce a series of strong arm measures aimed at cutting an alleged 200% rise in violence along an admittedly ghastly part of the city centre, York street. And it is at this very early descriptive stage that we encounter the first backwash of spin from the council’s very good press department.

Looking at the aches of coverage, including reports in two national newspapers, Das Mail and the Fossilgraph, as well as half an hour on the nation’s lead TV channel,  you would think the council was undertaking the drinking regulation equivalent of putting a monkey on Mars.  I expected all kinds of shit from the hype –  compulsory tags in drinker’s guts that cause their knob to drop off when they hit ten units, gigantic robotised pigs machine gunning any bastard who drops a packet of peanuts and who knows, maybe those crazy boffins have even  invented a juke box without any fucking Elton John on it.

But no, what they’ve actually done is introduced a queue. A big queue.  The council has decreed that bars wanting to undertake two for one offers have to make people line up in an orderly fashion in between knuckle headed clones of the Mitchell brothers. These bastards are programmed to stop any queue drinking, pushing in, giggling, farting or anything else that might be misconstrued as having fun. You will only be allowed to buy two drinks and if you don’t give the correct change you’ll have your balls plugged into the mains.

Alright, I made the last bit up, but you catch the right wing drift.

This plan, soaked to the gusset in spin, provoked two kinds of reaction in direct response to those two opposing worlds I painted in my first paragraph. Those who like staying in, unless they are marching into Poland, loved it – pointing out that our nation is going to hell in a beer barrel, so what we do indeed need is some good old British queuing – and actually, while we are it, how about some fucking national service as well? On the other side we have the members of our community who regard the murder laws as a gross infringement on personal freedom – they spent the day running around, hands in the air, screaming that if we let this go we might as well hand over our genitals to the state in a handbasket.

All very dramatic, but me, I was left numb by the whole thing. Why? Because really this is dribble of a measure that not only represents no threat to our drinking way of life, but also wont move Oldham one inch in the direction of solving its problems.

For all the spin and gumpf, it is a fact that the scale of this proposal is tiny. It will only effect one central area in Oldham and covers only a small part of the drinking culture – special offers. It wont impact on shots, cheaper lagers (yes, £2.50-£3 is cheap) or the phalanx of other beverages that keep the tartlets wobbling on their high heels.

Moreover, as a a strategy for cutting booze it is woefully full of holes. Has it not entered anyone’s mind that what will happen is that those wanting to drink their eyeballs out will simply stock up on special brew and super glue from Costcutters before hitting the same tacky piss holes as they did before? Or perhaps collect their giro and head to a local pub just outside the catchment area to stock up on shots or suck up the happy hours there?

The basic point is this – if people want to drink on the cheap they always will do. Even introducing minimum pricing – the supposed silver bullet for binge drinking – wont have an impact because the sort of price rises that would be incurred are laughable. 75p a unit? £3 for a pint of lager? Anyone want to tell the authorities that most people have being paying this since the last Pope popped his clogs?

Ultimately what Oldham council have done is take the very easy option of a high profile PR stunt without addressing the real nub of the issue – why is it that some of its residents want to get this drunk in the first place? Because drink may make you turn into a dick, lose your wallet or walk into a bush, but it does not change a placid normal person into a nutter. It may make you more prone to arguments, sloppiness or stupidity, but those who drink to the point where they feel need to start glassing people have fundamental issues in the first place that booze is not going to make much worse.

And this is the real test for the Oldham scheme. Will it drive crime down in that area or will it push it elsewhere, to other pubs and into the home? I suspect it will be the latter because ultimately making someone line up for booze or asking them to pay an extra 50p is not going to rid a city which is on the poverty line, racked with housing problems and has been successfully buggered by governments of every political shade for the best part of three decades.

Yeah, I’ve gone political, and Ive gone lefty. But even those who think hippes should be roasted over a flaming fire and that the poor should be launched out of the nearest cannon can surely agree that the fucking problem isnt happy hours and the answer isnt a long queue.

So maybe Oldham’s council should stop chaperoning camera crews round its streets and start sorting the real issues that is causing its problems. Or is it just easier to set up a cheap PR stunt?


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The end of the British pub industry – pubs to blame?

July 30, 2009 at 21:43 (News commentary, Pub industry) (, , )

I was in my silk dressing gown this morning, enjoying a dawn pick me up of yager bomber and last night’s reheated smack*, when I surfed across the latest depressing figures from the BBPA about the state of the British pub industry.

 The facts are as hideous as a Bulgarian pin up. 52 pubs going under each week. 24,000 buxom barmaids and buck teethed bar men on the dole. A total of £1.53 million added to the tax bill from the accompanying fall out.

Awful stuff on face value, so upsetting I almost dropped my crack pipe. Rising above it all is the horrible spectre articulated by the news hub Ananova – which I initially thought was a pornstar’s website – in short, are we seeing the end of the great British pub? And if so what is the cause? The dirty smoking ban that got so many people in a lather on the Times typically hysterical comment thread?

I do despise that whining idiot Michael Winner – a man who looks like he’s been fashioned out of play doh by a blind child – but to borrow a line from his suicide inducing commercials, calm down dear.

The figures are not good and clearly there are problems. Liberal Conspiracy put together an interesting article on the monopoly system in the pub industry – damning stuff, though Ill be honest I don’t understand half of it. Must have been off school the day they did advanced marco-pub finance across sectoral market divides.  We are also in a recession and hence it was inevitable that there would be some blood on the brewery floor – the economic downturn is a dirty bitch that affects us all.

Ultimately, though, while all this is woe – including the government’s daft beer duties which require you to remortgage your house to buy a G&T – the fact is there are clear cultural changes at play which I’m afraid a lot of pubs only have themselves to blame for not following.

Im a man who likes the traditional pub – roaring fires, beardy ales, brass ornaments, wood panelling, barmaids with jugs you could park a bike in – that sort of thing. And I fervently despise the chain wank that infests our green and pleasant land, just have a gander at my recent review of the sloppy turd that is All Bar One near Tower Bridge.

But the fact is the chain’s are doing well because theyre catering for where the market is in the drinking world we now live in. They produce reasonable food in a family environment with lots of deals and an assortment of targeted tipples served by well trained staff.

Now I can sense that youve got an urge to cover your monitor in vomit after reading that last para. Truth be told I myself have just chucked a bit of sick over my crotch.

But, however unpleasant it is, the truth is that there are not enough people wanting to go to sawdust and spit pubs anymore. The Korean war has finished, we have colour TVs and we don’t live in 1954. People don’t on the whole do 18 hour shifts in steel factories and then want to go to a smoke filled cubby hole every night rather than face the sour faced trout in their one bedroom house who they’ve been spunking kids out of since they were 17. Britain has changed and to be honest Ive been in plenty of run down, poorly managed shit holes with no fucking invention or creativity that are stuck in a crap lined time warp.

When I look at the 52 pubs figure I see maybe three decent pubs going down the pan out of that number – the rest are probably boozers I wouldn’t leave my dog or my mother in law in.

That isn’t to say we all need to strip naked, paint our arseholes blue and run round the totem pole of Weatherspoons. There is a market for this shit and fair enough, but there is also clearly a market for pubs with character. Whether it’s the Ribs of Beef in Norwich or the Windsor Castle in Marble Arch – do it right and they will turn up, hand over coins and keep you going.

Im sure there are plenty of people who’ll disagree with this. Fair enough, but what’s your answer? Bring in restrictive tenancy laws against chain pubs that will be shot to pieces – quite rightly – by European competition laws? Subsidise the pub industry? And where is that money going to come from, the Pound fairy?

* This is a flippant comment and I am not in anyway endorsing the use of illegal drugs. I myself have only been spaced out once and that was down to misjudging a dose of cough medicine.


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Carling and minimum pricing – a load of balls?

July 27, 2009 at 22:32 (News commentary) (, , )

More condensed shite today from our friends at the Daily Nutcase.

They have taken time off from persecuting single mothers, asylum seekers and brown people to put together a piece of frolicking froth about Carling’s parent company Molson Coors wanting a minimum pricing regime for alcohol products in the UK.

Wonderful PR for the company – as it appears on face value that this selfless corporation with more money than God has decided to slice itself off from the supermarkets and other big breweries in a noble attempt to save the nation’s livers. There they are, shaking their head wistfully, muttering “it must be done”, before unzipping their trousers, dropping the under garments below and raising their butt cheeks in the air for a bit of firm regulation rogering. The message appears to be clear – Molson Coors is taking a big hard one for the team.

All very good … but unfortunately I smell the shit of bull. Leaving aside some of the dubious claims in the article (Molson Coors have been working with the BMA and the CMO have they? Methinks not sunshine…) the fact is that if this change was to be enacted it is extremely unlikely that Coors’ brands would be hit because if they were you could bet your left bollock Coors would be retracting their flies faster than you could say “profit warning ahoy”.

Although minimum pricing is a very vague proposal at the moment, the Government and the health professional lobby have made it clear they are targeting the tramp tipples – the low grade white lightening kind of affairs that really do sell at 50p a can and are the loss leaders for supermarkets and offies. They are not after the more medium to high end products or anything sold in pubs where breweries tend to snaffle up higher profit margins. After all politicans are not, contrary to popular opinion, morons, they know that there are votes in the aisles of Oddbins and Tescos.

A prime example is the 50p a unit proposal – all this would mean is that a pint would have to cost in your local the grand spanking total of at most  … erm, £2.50. Well, show me a collection of pubs that sells a pint for under £3 anywhere south of Doncaster and Ill show you a dancing gerbil that can give an elephant a blow job while doing the fandango.

Minimum pricing looks like it may well be headed this way as the political consensus is there and lets face it, its an easy policy to sell and implement. But will it stop 22 year old drinking themselves to death or indeed affect many people reading this page? Nope, it wont a single jot.

I have no problem with a serious debate about this issue – but can it please be conducted without the Mail giving an insincere brewery a hand shandy during the conversation?

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