Friday, October 19, 2018

Faux Boozers for the Instagram Generation

This may come as something of a surprise, but I really don't mind folks who don't drink, horses for courses and all that jazz. I have even been known to go on extended booze free stints, beyond my annual January break - for the record, I find advocates  for both "Dryanuary" and "Tryanuary" tedious and smug in equal measure - if I fancy a break from the booze it is none of their business, in support or otherwise.

One thing though that is really guaranteed to get my goat is people who claim their don't go to the pub because of some particular thing, and if that thing wasn't there, they would go. Take smoking for example, now I am not, never have been, and never will be, a smoker, but I think the smoking ban is a piece of officious nonsense handed down from a government pandering to puritans. If we believe in the free market, then businesses should have been free to decide if they wanted to ban smoking in their establishments, or to introduce a smoking room. There are solutions that don't require total bans, though campaigners are rarely likely to opt for sensible compromise in this extremist day and age. From a purely anecdotal standpoint, many of the people I know who said they would go to the pub more if smoking were not allowed don't actually go to the pub any more than they used to. I should also point out that I don't hanker for the days of having to air out my coat from an open window after a night in a smoky pub, but I think the ban is heavy handed and a contributing factor to the crisis of the pub trade.

Anyway, this morning on Twitter The Pub Curmudgeon tweeted a article from the Morning Advertiser about people looking for a booze free pub like environment. I find myself asking the question, what is the point of having a "pub" that doesn't serve alcohol? After all, the dictionary definition of a pub is:
a building with a bar and one or more public rooms licensed for the sale and consumption of alcoholic drink, often also providing light meals
The English language does have several perfectly good words, and the occasional one nicked from French, for places that sell non-intoxicating drinks, and maybe even light meals, but for which a license to sell booze is not required, here is a select sample:
  • teashop
  • tearoom
  • coffee shop
  • coffeehouse (though somewhat sketchy places in the 18th century, what with the political intrigue and gambling that went on)
  • café (I guess for those cosmopolitan types for whom a solid English word isn't good enough)
For the non-drinker there are plenty of options of places to go, is it the pub's fault that they don't stay open until 11pm? Is it the pub's fault that they don't have an atmosphere to rival the local boozer on a Friday night? Nope, and so the pub need not be impacted because people who have no desire to do what happens in pubs by virtue of them being pubs want to go elsewhere.

Rather than lobbying pub owners to make spaces more appealing to them, how about frequenting the types of places already available and advocate for them to open later, have a broader range of drinks suitable for non-drinkers, and encourage a kind of pub like atmosphere to make them slightly less joyless holes of puritanical face pinching?

Coming back to the original Morning Advertiser article, I think this quote from perhaps the most puritanically named sober bar imaginable is very telling:
"Young people don't want to get drunk anymore...They care about how they look on Instagram"


  1. You are allowed to have a smoking room in your establishment (in Virginia) - but it'll cost you... separate room, separate ventilation, etc. See:

  2. The blogposts dashed off in the heat of the moment are often the best.

    It's certainly something I've observed that people who basically don't like pubs full stop say "I would go more if only they did *this*" - often something they already do. It was very noticeable how the promised army of non-smokers never turned up in pubs following the ban.

    1. Agree completely - With that being said, I do now (and have always) avoided bars that I knew I'd smell like an old sock after a couple hours. I don't go to Miller's in downtown Charlottesville for that exact reason

    2. In 9 years here I have never been to Millers. Much prefer Rapture.

  3. Interesting, and probably accurate. I actually spent more time in bars when they allowed smoking (and I smoked) than I do now, although I generally think smoke-free bars are much more pleasant (now that I don't smoke). Could just be that I have kids these days.

  4. I live in Amsterdam (the one in Europe). Cafés and restaurants here were supposed to be smoke free by IIRC 2005. However, that didn't happen until the EU set up rules in 2007. Going out since then to eat and/or drink has been a pleasure. I go to a couple of cafés and sit inside. In the warmer months, I go to different places and sit outside..

  5. Yup, still looking for a restaurant atmosphere without the actual food...


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