I recently went for a pint at the wonderful Red Lion Histon
and chatted to that old maverick of a publican, Mark Donachy. Now Mark has been around the trade for donkey’s years, working in every aspect including at one time being an area manager for one of the largest breweries in the land. He runs a fabulous pub and is probably the most knowledgeable publican in the county.
We debated the thorny subject of binge drinking and what should be done. This all came about after I had recently run a bar for the Hash House Harriers in the Cambridge Guildhall. I hasten to add that although the Harriers drank well they were perfectly behaved, but when we were loading up to go home at around 2.30a.m., it was like a different world out there in the Market Square with youngsters completely smashed and behaving appallingly. Youths were trying to steal my stock that we were loading up before my very eyes! Mark pointed out that it often starts with a few cheap cans from the supermarket then to the big barns in the city centre that masquerade as pubs. And then more cheap cans. We debated the take home trade as it is called, and take home it should be, not “drinking on the street” trade. Anyone caught drinking on the street should be given a community service order or its ilk, a little like it is in America.
As far as serving youngsters is concerned most landlords have it all in hand. The problem again is the supermarket and the small licensed general store. If any small shop is caught flogging alcohol to youngsters they should have their license withdrawn for a year and if it happens again taken away for ever. As for the supermarket I go further than Mark’s initial idea to take their licence away for a year. My idea would be that if a supermarket were to sell to a youngster, all their shops within Cambridgeshire would lose the licence for a year. This would ensure a greater sense of responsibility from the people at the sharp end of this particular problem.
I called in at the Blue Ball in Grantchester. The publican John Roos agreed strongly, his idea being that for off sales the legal limit should be put up to 21 but remaining at 18 for the on trade as the regulators are in place there, the publicans. Raising duty just punishes the responsible drinker, and this must not be allowed to happen