Pub-Entry Breathalysing Is Bad Business Practice

When I popped in for a haircut the other day, Gary the barber didn’t ask me if I’d washed my hair recently or whether I had scurvy – or any other question that might have deterred him from cutting my hair. What he did was to say “Hi Martin, how you doing? You look good. How’s the missus? Same as last time is it?”. Then he offered me a cup of coffee, did a great job on my mullet and charged me £6.50 (I gave him a tenner because I am trying to avoid the pensioners rate!).

Why mention this? Well, it’s just an example of how a typical business doesn’t raise barriers to doing business!! Unlike the latest 2 towns in Cornwall, who are going to breathalyse customers on the way into their pubs to see if they are fit to serve! They’re not the only towns in the UK doing this, so perhaps one day it could become the norm!

Is this a bridge too far, or is this just another drip in the incessant flow of recent campaigns to demonise pubs and alcohol? How soon will it be before the Daily Mails of this world make the drips become a flood and frighten little old ladies into believing that popping into a pub will see them scared out of their wits!

I am all for the responsible retailing (and consumption) of alcohol. Indeed, here at Inn-Dispensable we spend most of our time training licencees, police, local authorities, etc, on how to ensure it happens properly, but surely breathalysing potential customers before we let them in runs the risk of killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

Times for pubs are hard enough. No longer can we rely on a game of dominoes, darts or skittles to fill our pubs. We need to be supreme at giving the customers what they want at a price they believe is value for money. What they really want of course is restaurant-grade food at pub prices, the best possible products, highly-trained staff and five-star hotel service all at road–side kebab caravan prices. A combination that is a near impossibility for the average pub. May they rise to the challenge!

I accept that the “breathe into this and pass the test before you can come in” is not designed to test every person entering the pub (God forbid that that ever happens). Rather, it’s a genuine attempt to stop drunk people entering. We used to spot this in our pub from local knowledge and experience and an arm around the shoulder. We didn’t need machines, we had knowledge and discretion. It’s also a way (perhaps) of curtailing ‘pre-loading’. But just imagine 20 young revellers coming in; who do you breathalyse? What about their human-rights I hear them say. It’s a right kettle of fish in my view!

Will the practice grow? It certainly will if we as an industry don’t get our act together and simply stop serving those who are clearly intoxicated. The days of celebrating and laughing at drunkenness are soon to be a thing of the past. Most well-run professional pubs refuse to serve those who appear to be intoxicated. Most well-run professional licencees train their staff on recognising the signs of drunkenness and have a policy and procedure for refusing service. It’s not rocket science! It’s common sense. All we have to do is to make it Common Practice.

I have every sympathy for the authorities, especially our wonderful police officers and A&E staff who have to deal with the adverse behaviours of drunkenness. At its worst it is disgusting, shameful and frankly very scary. Having been brought up in a pub, I have seen drunken violence first-hand. Also as a brewery director, I have seen the dreadful consequences of violent drunkenness first-hand. As an industry we must do all we can to control the mind-altering liquid we make a living from. This I believe is just what 99% of professional licencees do already.

Let’s not allow technology to take over from high standards, good policies, good practice and training. Instead, let’s ensure we don’t see more and more initiatives such as pre-breathalysing come into our wonderful pub industry. We deserve more than this! The solution is in our hands!