I am not one for being sentimental about the past, but staring into the bottom of my pint, memories flow of a time when things were better than this.
Of course the world has changed somewhat since we had the social divide of a woman’s place in the home and pubs exclusively the domain men. This is no bad thing, and the ready availability of other forms of entertainment from the Internet, DVD Players and affordable televisions the size of children. Vast swathes of the population now prefer watching the latest blockbuster movie with a bottle of wine to going to the pub. Fair enough.
The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) are trying to fight back. They are petitioning the government to limit the ability of supermarkets to make a loss on selling alchol. This is esentially a request for a subsidy and should not be supported. But what can be done to save the great British pub?
A good place to start is reversing the government’s blanket ban on smoking in pubs. At the very least pubs should be able to apply for a license to permit smoking. As well as being a highly illiberal act, the smoking ban has hit pubs hard; with the holy trinity of glorious vices – pint, cigarette and crisps – now one man down.
Tax is another problem. The Government takes over 80 pence in tax for every pint sold in a pub. This is a hefty chunk for the treasury that should be drastically reduced. Why not also lower the drinking age to sixteen at pubs. This would take youth binge drinking out of the private sphere, educating them in the finer points of drinking.
I spent much of my youth in pubs and beer festivals drinking real ale. I have no doubt that if the government simply backed off most pubs would survive. They offer something unique to offer that are being undermined by the public health agenda, obsessive regulation and indefensible taxes.