London Update… Doctor’s Orders

Andy Ives, Contributing Editor

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown isn’t exactly flavour of the month around here. Before he moved his chair behind the big desk at 10 Downing Street, he was Chancellor of the Exchequer and pretty much everyone is blaming his policies, past and present, for the God-awful state of our economy.

A side effect of the economic malaise is the closure of over 30 pubs (hotels to you Aussies) every week, simply because they are not getting enough punters through the door to make a profit. The hospitality industry is lobbying hard for tax breaks and other measures that might bring some relief to the struggling trade, but so far Mr Brown has not listened, and the economy is still being denied revenue it needs from a buoyant pub sector.

It is no surprise that government wont listen to drinks industry lobbying…they never do. However, when the doctors wade in, people usually sit up and listen; the smoking ban attests to that fact. This week, Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer for the entire UK, suggested that a minimum price of 50 pence per unit of alcohol be applied to each and every retailer in the UK. His recommendation was summarily dismissed by both Prime Minister Brown and opposition leader David Cameron.

“Quite right” you might say, “Stop putting even more restrictions on our industry.” But if you are saying that, you are wrong, and so is Gordon Brown. Think about it for a moment. When was the last time you went into a bar or pub and bought anything to drink that was less that 50 pence (about $1)? Never. It doesn’t happen. And yet I can walk into any supermarket and buy unbranded super-strength cans of lager and cider for far less that 50 pence a pop. This isn’t a tax don’t forget, so it won’t affect the cost of buying in stock, purely what it can be sold at.


In one fell swoop, this initiative could help get people back into pubs (if the price is the same, there’s no reason to sit at home and drink), and more importantly, the there will be less idiot kids hanging around on street corners, pissed on own-brand Special Brew and causing trouble. Crime figures are bound to drop. The only losers would be the huge supermarket chains who would have to stop selling crap, rough alcohol at a loss. I think Walmart can hack it.

Interesting, isn’t it? When the docs shout: “Stop smoking”, the Government jumps, no matter the cost to the licensed trade. However, when they shout: “Stop supermarkets selling cheap booze to kids and alcoholics”, which would help the trade and in turn the economy, their reply is “Nope…I’ve got shares in Safeway.”

Cheers Gordon. Good luck in the next election. You’ll need it.

  1. ‘This talk of getting older is getting my down my love’ and for once Chris Martin was right. It seems that it is the negative talk of a situation that is the problem. Compared to the rest of the world Australia is faring very well at the moment (look at the story above!!!) sure it is tough but hell it could be a whole lot worse. However the media seems to have filtered down and now even the way people talk has changed – it is far to negative! As bartenders we have a duty – people come to our houses of fun to get away from the drag of life, escapism is king. I have noticed far to many bartenders continuing this negative talk by asking customers questions like ‘How’s work – you still busy?’ or ‘Haven’t seen you in a while – the recession getting to you?’…. Come on folks we should be getting positive messages out. Don’t ask about work or money or the economy I bet you never did before. Keep the conversation cheery, keep it upbeat, keep it fun that is why people come to you and let me tell you something if they are happy they will spend more and tip a whole lot more. So cheer the fuck up, have fun and life will look a whole lot better.

  2. Richard Ashcroft from the Verve Incognito, covered most recently by Ben Harper not Chris Martin.
    Interesting point though.

  3. Good point Andy, but the pubs do have to cover overheads like wages and electricity etc so it would have to be more expensive to buy drinks there than the supermarket.
    But I do firmly believe that all booze should be taxed on the number of standard drinks per container and not the mess we have in Oz with WET favouring the Passion Pops of the world versus spirits being murdered by excise.  But that’s another whole topic…

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