There seems to be a trend with pubs at the moment, they seem to be trying to make themselves more friendly.
This comes to mind today as I've just moved to a new town and need to know where I can spend my afternoons over a few pints and a word processor. So here I am, looking at all the pubs with a critical eye, something I've not done since I was in the pub trade.
There seems to be a general consensus amongst the newer pubs, that being 'Let's make them open plan.' All the pubs I've been to today are one large room. Almost every table is visible from the bar, whether this is so that the bar staff can keep an eye on the customers or the other way round I don't know. Perhaps it's just a sheer fluke. I suppose that they think that an open plan pub is more appealing to people. I can't think why, except that as soon as you've walked through the door you can see the general clientele of the place, and therefore know if you've made a mistake by walking in there. Also I suppose it gives the more honest impression, as in 'We have nothing to hide.' But what if the customers do? Okay, fair dues, you may not want some of the customers that like to hide what they're doing in the pub, the dealers, the prostitutes and the general alcoholics. But what about the poor schmuck like myself who wants to sit there enjoying a pint while working on his laptop, without everyone in the place glancing in your direction every few minutes to see what you're doing? Fortunately some pubs have introduced little screened off seating areas. Okay, they make it obvious that they've got closed circuit television watching you, but at least the rest of the pub isn't looking at you, except for the lass who just walked from one side of the pub to this just to glance here trying to make it look as though she was looking for a free table. Unfortunately for her I saw her come in with her boyfriend, who five minutes ago came out of the toilets, across from where I'm sitting. A good plan, poor execution.
Seating is another thing that is changing in pubs these days. When I started drinking in pubs there was a trend to throw out those old armchairs and stools and replace them with benches. Now it seems that they're throwing out the benches to replace them with armchairs. Yeah, they're a lot nicer armchairs than the ones that got thrown out a few years ago, but at least they've realized that people don't want to spend a few hours with their bum parked on a plank of wood. Patterned seating is going as well, and not before time. Whenever the pattern was chosen they seem to have had in mind the thought 'Let's get something that won't show up the dirt.' whereas now they seem to have cottoned onto the idea of cleaning the dirt up rather than hiding it. On the down side, though, they seem to have brought back in patterned carpet. I have to admit that I was a fan of the plain wooden plank flooring that became a trend, it didn't make me dizzy like the patterns on the carpet that seems to have crept back into pubs. Why can't they choose plain carpet? I suppose that it would be easier to see a stain on a plain carpet, and the cost of replacing the whole carpet every time something got spilt would be prohibitive. But surely, though, an establishment that serves alcohol doesn't want to have decorations that make you feel even more woozy?
It seems also that food has made even more of an inroad into the pub trade. All of the pubs I've been in so far this afternoon serve food all the way through the day. Okay, no problem, I personally am all for the 24/7 week. After all, why should people we've never met dictate our waking, drinking and eating hours? But there is a downside, with pubs that serve food come families. I had to leave the last pub solely for the reason that there was a screaming child at one table. Not in one corner, but right in the middle of the pub where nobody could escape the noise. Which was a shame as otherwise the pub was quiet and relaxed. Admittedly they had run out of Guinness and I was forced to drink lager, but the chairs were comfortable, the prices were good and the general atmosphere was pleasant. But Deity help us about the screaming kid. You may have noticed that I'm not a fan of children in pubs, actually I'm not a fan of children full stop, but I suppose that they are a necessary evil if we want our species to continue. But why should the pub, a place of solace and refuge be full of them? Not for me, so the next pub I went to has a no under 18 rule. That'll suit me for a while.
Which brings me to the legal age of drinking. Why 18? What happens at eighteen that suddenly overnight you are a sensible adult and capable of handling a pint of beer. That doesn't happen. I know people in their mid thirties who are less responsible than kids I know of sixteen. So why suddenly allow them to drink at the age of eighteen? We don't do it with cars. At the age of seventeen we let people start to learn how to handle a car. We make them take lessons with a qualified instructor. We make them learn to handle the different problems involved with a motor vehicle; we even give them a theory test now. So why not do the same with alcohol. Make people take and pass an alcohol theory and practical test before giving them a drinking license. Surely that would make more sense? And it'd be a lot more fun taking the practical test for alcohol than it would be for driving.
'Right Mr. Dunkley, when I tap my clipboard against the bar I'd like to you down your pint ready to move onto the next pub.'
Let's teach kids about alcohol. We all know that the education system and politicians and parents are always crying out that kids aren't educated about alcohol and therefore abuse it. So why not educate them?
'Okay class, today's lesson is on homebrew. Pay attention as you'll have to produce by next month a bitter or lager of a drinkable standard.'
One of the main problems that I've found with drunks is that they don't know how to handle their alcohol. You have people who mix their drinks, who drink way too much to try and impress people, who think that if a pub is quiet and the people enjoying the ability to talk to each other in a relaxed atmosphere, that they should start an impromptu karaoke session. Now that should get you points on your drinking license. And there's an idea. Points on your drinking license for bad behavior in pubs. Singing loudly with intent, three points and a £10 fine. Falling asleep in the middle of the street, three points and a £30 fine. Deity knows I'd be broke by now with that one. Projectile vomiting, automatic ban for three months.
Surely such a system would be far more preferable than the current one? Abolish licensing hours and bring in a drinking license. And think of the job opportunities
'Wanted, Alcohol Instructor. Must be open and friendly with a good customer nature. Ability to talk complete waffle after several pints not necessary as full training will be given.'
Let me apply now! Actually, I don't know if I'd want that job. Drinking for a living isn't that much fun. Okay, it is fun most of the time, but not all. Imagine having just had a long weekend off work, and then going in on a Tuesday morning with a stonking hangover and having to start drinking all over again. Nah, been there, done that, got the nightmares.
Okay, smoking in pubs. I haven't covered this yet, but it's just been brought to mind because the couple of lads at the next table have just lit up. Should smoking really be banned in pubs? I know it's on the cards and will be enforced soon. But really? Banned in all public places? Okay, I hear that they've done it in some parts of America. I may well be wrong but that's what I hear. Now we have here the situation again of people we've never met telling us what we can and can't do. Can you imagine what would happen if one of these politician were to come into you local and tell you to your face what they tell us by enforcing laws?
'Hello there young man, I'm afraid that it's been decided that smoking is not a healthy pastime and therefore you are no longer allowed to smoke near consenting adults. And while we're at it, that alcohol may make you drunk so you have to stop ordering it at 11pm, and don't be naughty by carrying on the fun back at home with booze bought from a pub, you live in a residential area and people there might well have to get up for work in the morning, please be considerate when leaving. Oh, and remember to stock up on condoms from the machine in the gents on the way out, you never know what you might catch from that lady you're drinking with.'
'Yes, I'd like a coroner please... no, not an ambulance, this chap won't survive, with any luck.'
Let's face it, if the politicians were to try and tell us face-to-face half the stuff they give us as laws, then nobody would want to be a politician. And maybe that's not such a bad idea.