Curmudgeon News - April 2000

This month's items include:

  • Life For a Life?
  • B-Test Blitz for Reds Fans
  • Kids in Pubs Free-for-all
  • The Honest Lager
  • Red Card for Rowdy Pubs
  • Drink-Drive Confusion
  • The Bootlegger Will Always Get Through
  • The Big Chill

Complete News Index


  • Life For a Life?

    Norfolk man Tony Martin was gaoled for life for the murder with an unlicensed shotgun of 16-year-old burglar Fred Barras, who had broken into his isolated farmhouse. Opinions were widely expressed that the verdict was unduly harsh, and that the police did not do enough to protect rural areas. While Martin may have overreacted, manslaughter with a suspended sentence would surely have been a more appropriate outcome. But I wonder, on that fateful night when Norfolk police failed to protect Martin's property, just how many motorists they breathalysed, and how many tests proved positive? Can police priorities be right when they are busy pursuing people for usually non-existent traffic offences while country-dwellers are not safe in their own homes?

  • B-Test Blitz for Reds Fans

    In an attempt to curb drink-related violence, Manchester United fans attending their team's European Champions League quarter-final match against Real Madrid faced the threat of random breath tests at the Bernabeu stadium. They could be refused admission if they were found to have consumed more than the equivalent of two pints of beer. If they introduced this in the UK, where the pre-kickoff drink is part of match-day ritual, the grounds would be nearly empty. And it's another example of the worrying trend to consider anyone with a blood alcohol level above 80 mg as not only unfit to drive, but as effectively drunk and incapable of responsible behaviour. If I'm typing this after coming back from the pub, can you take it seriously?

  • Kids in Pubs Free-for-all

    Government plans to reform the licensing laws are reported to include giving licensees the discretion to admit children under 14 to all areas of pubs. It is felt that this will encourage sensible drinking. I fail to see what's wrong with the current law where any licensee who wants to cater for families can easily do so by setting aside a separate family room or obtaining a children's certificate - but he has to make a positive decision to do so. All this change in the law will do is to allow children into unsuitable premises at inappropriate times. It is both anti-children and anti-pub, and it will make it harder for genuine "sensible drinkers" to enjoy a quiet pint in peace. You can imagine many irresponsible parents dragging their kids down to the pub while they indulge in a heavy drinking session. At least it will make dating easier for single mums!

  • The Honest Lager

    The Whitbread Beer Company are to launch a new lager brand with a distinct British identity called GB Lager. The beer, which is to be pitched between standard and premium brews, will have an ABV of 4.4% and will be trialled in the North-West before being rolled out nationally. It will stand out from the crowd by having a bar mounting in the form of a bath tap. Lucky us in the North-West! Given that many people think British-brewed ersatz lager tastes not unlike dishwater, that's a remarkably honest form of presentation. And I wonder what J. W. Lees, brewers of GB Mild, think about it all.

  • Red Card for Rowdy Pubs

    Rowdy pubs will be closed down under a radical new system in which landlords will have points deducted from a driving licence-style permit. The measure, which will bring relief to local residents plagued by noisy pubs, was outlined in a government white paper that will introduce 24-hour drinking in Britain for the first time. An excellent idea that has the potential to lead to markedly better managed and more civilised pubs. How about a "sin bin" for trouble-prone pubs where they have to do without any music for three months if they're found to have been in breach of the law? The one concern is that many inner urban pubs are by their nature not places you'd take a maiden aunt, and, if the authorities bear down too hard, all it will do is encourage the growth of unlicensed shebeens.

  • Drink-Drive Confusion

    The government's Road Safety Review published in March gave a clear indication that they did not intend to implement the reduction of the drink-drive limit in the near future, and this was borne out by several press reports. However, other reports during April suggest that they may have changed their mind and be going to press ahead with it anyway. My views on this issue are well documented elsewhere on this site, and I found these reports worrying after it seemed that the plan had definitely been shelved. But surely, if they are going to do it, they should act decisively and unambiguously. The continued uncertainty leaves thousands of pub licensees in limbo and reflects badly on the ability of government ministers to take important decisions.

  • The Bootlegger Will Always Get Through

    An investigation by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has found that only 7% of the tobacco smuggled into the UK is detected each year, meaning that 93% is still finding its way onto the black market. In a way, it's quite impressive that Customs can manage to seize as much as 7%, but this shows the futility of trying to put a finger in the dyke. As long as cigarettes retail for 2 a packet less in France than in the UK, then the smugglers will find a way. And legal personal imports alone must be making huge inroads in the domestic market.

  • The Big Chill

    Customers can expect an ice-cold reception when they order any of the most popular bottled lagers on sale at Wetherspoon pubs. The company has begun a 500,000 investment programme to install state-of-the-art chillers in its outlets. The new equipment will ensure that the bottles are served at ice-cold temperatures at all times. Operations Director Mark Davies said: "We have installed special walk-in chillers in most of our pubs and set them to chill at just above zero. Our aim is to serve all of our bottled lagers at this temperature, but in the first instance we want to ensure that we can get it right with our four most popular products." Of course anyone who knows anything about lager is well aware that the ideal temperature to serve these beers is 8 -10 degrees C. Anything lower will kill the flavour stone dead. This announcement makes it clear that Wetherspoon's couldn't care less about the quality of the products they serve and are simply keen to get them poured down the throats of young drinkers as quickly as possible without any flavour to get in the way.

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