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Friday, 18 May 2012

Should We Save the British Pub?

Conspicuously absent from the right side of the page is the Save Our Pubs & Clubs campaign banner, which looks like this:

I have to admit, I am very much on the fence on whether to include it in the sidebar at right.  On the one hand, I fully support an amendment to the current smoking ban to allow separate smoking rooms, which is precisely what the campaign sets out to do.  I know this one little thing will do more to save the traditional British pub than anything else.  On the other hand, and selfishly, I am disappointed with a great many publicans for not putting up any kind of fight against the ban, either pre- or post-ban.  And like many who have chosen to forego pubs and instead are holding a smoky-drinky with close friends, it has become increasingly difficult for me to feel any sympathy for pub owners who do not speak out against the ban.  So I want to save pubs, and at the same time I want the pubs to save themselves.

Simon Clark's feature on the smoking ban in pubs five years on and its accompanying article have been published here, and if you haven't read both of these, I would recommend doing so.  The article estimates that 5,000 pubs have closed since the ban was introduced.  The Guardian estimates about 20 pubs close per week, a little over 1,000 per year.  This is compared to an estimated 300+ pubs closing per year prior to the ban.  We also need to consider that new pubs also open for business or reopen after closing, so the actual net closures could be lower.  Presently, there are approximately 51,500 pubs still in business here, so we have a while yet before the great British pub disappears.

Furthermore, the beer and pub trade generates an estimated £11 billion GBP in tax revenue, and provides almost a million jobs in the UK.  I do not believe that employment figure considers any ancillary businesses which also depend on the pub trade, such as delivery drivers, food suppliers, beer mat printers, and so on. So I would think there are many more jobs dependent on a thriving pub trade in the UK.  In any case, we are looking at a sizeable percentage of the public who could take the battle to Westminster, if they wanted to do so.

But the sad truth is most people do not wish to get involved nor are they willing to challenge government.  They merely accept their fate which has been handed down to them by Parliament and then when things go wrong they bitch about their lot in life and blame government, when they ought to blame themselves at least partially. Of course, not every pub wants to bring smoking back, and that's acceptable. Private businesses ought to be able to decide for themselves whether to allow smoking. I take no issue with the Wetherspoons chain banning smoking inside their pubs prior to the ban in England and Wales.  It's their business, and they can do whatever they like with it.  Although one could make a case that not every owner of a Wetherspoons pub wanted to ban smoking in their pub, but that's something for them to take up with the top brass of the chain.

Anyway, I figure that if all of the pub owners and ancillary businesses could join together and stand united against the smoking ban (even if some of those didn't want to allow smoking), their combined might along with all of the smokers out there in addition, then we would easily get the smoking ban amended.  But the pubs won't do that, because just like tobacco companies that  compete against each other, and fail to unite against a law because it could increase their market share, so it goes with individual pubs and larger chains in the trade.  And honestly, because of their utter lack of will to stand against the nanny state, I'm just finding it harder each day to give a fuck about pubs closing. Maybe it is because I'm getting old. 

The title of this blog begins with "Citizens United."  The idea behind that (despite the acronym) is to get us all united to fight for a common goal.  It doesn't have to be here on this blog. It could be anywhere or on anyone's blog, or some organisation like FOREST or even the Save Our Pubs & Clubs campaign.  We simply need to come together and stand united.

You know the famous motto: "United We Stand, Divided We Fall."  Well, we are all in free-fall right now, a disjointed collective of individuals tumbling through the black abyss of nanny statism.  We could change that, if you wanted to change it. We have more than enough numbers to turn things around.  The question is, how do we get everyone to come together and fight?  What is the magic catalyst that is needed to inspire you to get involved?

I wish I knew. 

In a day or so, I'll add the Save Our Pubs banner to the sidebar, because despite my selfishness and being pissy with pub owners for not fighting the ban, I recognise that we need to support each other if we're going to defeat the creeping (and creepy!) nanny state that is ruining our lives by slow degrees each waking hour.  Because this blog, this campaign against the nannies -- it isn't about me at all. It's about all of us. Together.  United. 

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