Curmudgeon's "Opening Times" Column - February 1998

* Facts, Not Hysteria *

There have been many media reports that drink-drive figures over Christmas were markedly worse than last year, lending support to calls for the introduction of even tougher laws. But the actual statistics tell a rather different story. The following figures were reported in the "Manchester Evening News" on 6 January and are therefore not amongst Vic Reeves' 88.2% of statistics that are made up on the spot.

In the 1996 Christmas campaign, 133,679 breath tests were carried out across the country, with 1,155 positive results and refusals, or 0.86%. The equivalent figures in 1997 were 199,804 tests, and 1,125 positive results and refusals, or 0.56%. So in fact, despite the higher number of tests, there was an absolute fall in the number of failures, and a 35% improvement in the proportion of drivers found to be breaking the law.

You could be forgiven for thinking that this news should be presented with guarded optimism as representing a positive trend. But obviously the powers-that-be are not going to let the facts stand in the way of the agenda they are pursuing. And one hopes that all of the 198,679 innocent motorists who have been hindered from going about their lawful business feel that their time was well spent and that this was an appropriate use of scarce police resources.

* The Furnace & Firkin? *

The days of cold, draughty pubs are now, by and large, a thing of the past. But there seems to be an increasing trend to err in the opposite direction. Obviously pubs should be warm and cosy, but you shouldn't be greeted with a wave of stifling heat when you walk in off the street. Licensees should also remember that a crowd of alcohol-fuelled people generate quite a lot of heat of their own, so they can turn the radiators down a bit once the pub is full. There's a pub near me that I go in quite a bit because the beer's good, but I and my companions always feel that it's just that little bit too hot to be comfortable.

There's really no need to heat pubs beyond about 68 to 70 degrees F. Licensees would do their customers a favour, and cut their fuel bills too, if they installed thermometers and thermostats and made sure that their customers were pleasantly warm rather than melting. Who knows, they could even knock a penny or two off the price of a pint with the money they saved!

* One Size Fits All *

One of the many rip-offs commonly practised in motorway service areas is only to stock jumbo-sized bags of crisps, so if you want crisps, it's either that or nothing. The standard 30g bags which people buy most of the time are conspicuous by their absence. I was disappointed recently to see that this practice has spread to the pub trade, specifically in Banks's pubs, who really should know better. Now, before you put green ink to paper and condemn this as hopelessly trivial, I know that it's far from the gravest issue confronting pubgoers, but it's a small symptom of an arrogant, "take it or leave it" attitude to customer service which shouldn't be allowed to flourish. After all, if they only sold beer in pints there would be plenty of complaints.

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