Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Walking Distance ... a step too far?

Whilst idling away a few moments during the Levinson Inquiry testimony of James Murdoch … zoned out a bit … saw a brilliant concept on Twitter

And it got me thinking about how pubs could incorporate a walking distance menu in to an organised charity event or cross-pollination marketing drive for their business.

Sustainability and local sourced produce, provenance and reduced food miles are important influencers for many consumers, none more so than in the pub trade; so tapping into the Lifestyle Of Health And Sustainability (LOHAS) consumer segment might be a great way to enhance your pub's USP and increase footfall.

Whilst this might be a bit "chicken and egg", I am of the egg first camp … i.e. you have to hatch the egg first … so why not get online and look at the Big Barn website and see what local producers and growers are listed in your area and create a menu from as many of their products as possible. Add some local beer, cider or wine and you have the basis for a walking distance offering.

Now use Google Maps Walking Planner to plot a walking route from A to B to C etc that incorporates as many suppliers (and other points of local interest) that you can. Next … take a break from the pub and go out for a walk and look to see what else can be foraged along the way … for instance berries, edible flowers, mushrooms, wild garlic etc and add those ingredients to your nascent walking distance menu.

For a guide to what might be available check out this handy foraging calendar and this resource
for loads of advice on foraging.

All you need to do now is plot your route and make an estimate of the time it would take for an average walker at, say, 3 mph to traverse the route from and back to your pub, say, 90 minutes maximum.

The menu and the planned walk would make a great basis for a sponsored walk or for customers to follow … hopefully to work up a (wo)man-sized appetite for all that lovely food you are going to offer and a thirst for the local ales you stock.

Just as an example here is the Big Barn Map for the Bladebone Inn

OK so some of the suppliers may not be walk-able except for dedicated yompers but just look at the number of local suppliers the Bladebone Inn has … including a place that offers courses on foraging, a local "open farm" (working farm that does tours etc), a local brewery, local markets, butchers …

It works for urban pubs too …

For instance points of local interest are a local history trail through the neighbourhood that the local council promotes and signposts … and plenty of local suppliers including an award winning butcher who only uses farm assured stock

With a little imagination and a little effort you too could create a walking distance concept for your pub.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Happy Birthday Bill ...

Sorry couldn't resist ...
No one is quite sure when Shakespeare was born , he was baptised on April 26th, 1564 and died on this day in 1616 but being a man of his times and a great frequenter of inns and hostelries it is little wonder that food and drink featured so heavily in his writing. So to celebrate our national bard and give you some fitting quotations for your chalkboards here is my top 20 with some fairly random links ...
1. Twelfth Night: Act 2, Scene 3
Do you think because you are virtuous, that there shall be no more cakes and ale?
 2. Othello: Act 2, Scene 3
Good wine is a good familiar creature, if it be well used.
3. Henry V: Act 1, Scene 3
I would give all my fame for a pot of ale.
4. As You Like It: Act 3, Scene 2
Truly, thou art damned like an ill roastedegg, all on one saide.
5. The Merry Wives Of Windsor: Act 1, Scene 1
Why, sir, for my part I say the gentleman had drunk himself out of his five senses.
 6. Anthony & Cleopatra Act 2 Scene 3

Give me some music; music,moody food. Of us that trade in love.
7. Romeo and Juliet: Act 4, Scene 2
Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his ownfingers.
8. Twelfth Night: Act 1, Scene 3
I am a great eater of beef and I believe that does harm to my wit.
9. Henry IV Part 1: Act 2, Scene 1
He hath eaten me out of house and home; he hath put all my substance into that fat belly of his.
 10. Macbeth: Act 2, Scene 3
 Drink sir, is a great provoker of three things….nose painting, sleep and urine. Lechery, sir, it provokes, and unprovokes; it provokes the desire but takes away the performance.
 11. Henry IV Part I: Act 3, Scene 1
O, he is as tedious as a tired horse, a railing wife; worse than a smokey house: I had rather live with cheese and garlic in a windmil, far, than than feed on cates and have him talk to me in any summer-house in Christendom.
12. The Comedy Of Errors: Act 5, Scene 1
Unquiet meals make ill digestions.
13. Richard III: Act 3, Scene 4
My lord of Ely, when I was last in Holborn I saw good strawberries in your garden there; I do beseech you send for some of them.
14. A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Act 4, Scene 2
And, most dear actors, eat no onions or garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath; and I do not doubt but to hear them say, it is a sweet comedy. No more words: Away! Go, away!
15. Henry IV Part II: Act 5, Scene 1
A’ shall answer it. Some pigeons, Davy, a couple of short-legged hens, a joint of mutton, and any pretty littletiny kickshaws, tell William cook.
16. All’s Well That Ends Well: Act 5, Scene 3
Mine eyes smell onions; I shall weep anon.
17. Romeo and Juliet: Act 4, Scene 4
They call for dates and quinces in the pastry.
18. Henry IV Part II: Act 2, Scene 4
A man cannot make him laugh – but that’s no marvel; he drinks no wine.
19. As You Like It: Act 3, Scene 5
I pray you, do not fall in love with me, For I am falser than vows made in wine.
20. Othello: Act 2, Scene 3
O thou invisible spirit of wine! If thou hast no name to be known by, let us call thee devil!

Friday, 20 April 2012

The Wrong Arm of the Law ...

A recent judicial review of the Police's powers relating to closure notices and powers of arrest has thrown up some vital information for all licensees that should be invaluable if threatened with closure or arrest with regard to certain licensing offences.

The background to this case is that in February 2011, West Yorkshire Police mounted a series of five enforcement actions against The Bank, Wakefield. The Police served S19 closure notices and then immediately forced the Claimant through threats of arrest to the Designated Premises Supervisor to close the bar. The bar was duly closed on each occasion. The effect of the closure was the loss of profits both on the night of the closure and on subsequent trading nights too.

The police had, according to the owners of The Bank, relied on Home Office guidance that was, in effect, wrong in terms of the law (the Licensing Act 2003 and the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001).

The law says that a closure notice under the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 (section 19) merely warns the licensee that if the matter of breach is not rectified within 7 days the police may apply to the magistrates’ court for a closure order pursuant to section 20 of the same act.

The claim also stated that while a breach of a licence condition is potentially a criminal offence under section 136 of the Licensing Act 2003, this does not automatically give rise to a power of arrest.

The Bank pointed out that arrest is governed by 24(5) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which provides strict conditions which have to be satisfied before a person may be arrested without a warrant. These include where the identity of the person arrested is unknown, where arrest is necessary to prevent a person suffering injury, or to prevent loss of or damage to property, to prevent an offence against public decency or unlawful obstruction of the highway, or harm to a child or a vulnerable person, or to allow prompt investigation of the offence to prevent disappearance of the person arrested.

Obviously, it will only be in very exceptional circumstances that such conditions are satisfied in the case of breach of licence conditions by licensed premises.  None of them was satisfied in the case of the Bank.

The Bank also claimed that its human right to trade and to rely on its licence had been abused by the Police actions. The unlawful threats by West Yorkshire Police to arrest the Designated Premises Supervisor if the premises did not close amounted to an unlawful interference with that right. As a result of closing the Claimant suffered loss of profits on the nights of the closure and damage to the goodwill of its business. Accordingly, the Bank claimed damages pursuant to section 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 and/or section 31(4) of the Senior Courts Act 1981.

West Yorkshire Police conceded that the Guidance was unlawful, that its actions had been illegal and that it was liable to pay damages. The Home Office withdrew the on-line version of the Guidance and wrote to all Chief Constables pointing out the legal errors in the Guidance. However, The Bank continued to pursue the claim, because a more public acknowledgment of the true effect of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 was required.

Mr. Justice Edwards-Stuart ruled that the Claimant was entitled to have recorded in a court order that the Guidance was unlawful.

The High Court has now approved a consent order requiring the Police and the Home Office to pay the Bank substantial undisclosed damages for loss of profit.

The order also records that the West Yorkshire Police and the Home Office accept that:

The service of a Closure Notice pursuant to section 19 of the Criminal Justice
Police Act 2001 does not:
a.       Require the premises to close or cease selling alcohol immediately; or
b.       Entitle the Police to require it to do so; or
c.       Entitle the Police to arrest a person on the sole ground of non-compliance with the Notice.”
The Police and the Home Office also agreed to pay the Claimants’ costs.

Michael Kheng (from Kurnia Licensing Consultants) stated:
“This was a clear case of over-enforcement causing damage to the goodwill of a business, not to mention the intimidation felt by the licensee confronted by police officers requiring him to close there and then. My client and I felt it right to pursue this matter to a judgment, so that the legal position is clearly established, to protect future licensees from similar conduct."

So my advice, in the unlikely event that you are confronted by this sort of Police action, is to refer them to the above acceptance of the law by the Home Office and to seek the advice of a licensing solicitor as soon as possible.

Grandma used to say that the police were a publican's best friend and in my experience she was right, but just like any organisation or person they are fallible. Hopefully the message has gone out throughout the land that this Judge Dredd style of interaction with licensees is not just unhelpful in our combined efforts to provide safe and regulated drinking, but is also just plain wrong.  I mean 5 enforcement actions? What did the Police do to pursue other avenues such as a review of the licence with the Local Authority, if things had come to such a state that 5 interventions were deemed appropriate?

With grateful thanks to Sarah Clover, Barrister, No 5 Chambers, Birmingham and Kurnia Licensing Consultants for the above explanation and for achieving clarity in this matter for all of us running licensed premises.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Responsible Marketing ... can pubs lead the vanguard?

The statements of intent (below) from drinks manufacturers to drive an EU wide policy for sometime in 2015 may be of interest to you.

The Responsible Marketing Pact


“Prevent minors from inadvertently seeing alcohol beverage marketing communications on social media” Common standards on age verification, the use of Facebook Sponsored Stories for marketing purposes, user generated content will be established.

Be careful of what you post on your Facebook page and what you Tweet ... it's so easy to have your message fowarded to under-18's. 

“Set a common adult demographic standard for alcohol beverage marketing communications across all media, thereby limiting undue exposure of minors to drinks ads.” A common stipulation that ads may only be placed in media where at least 70% of the audience is reasonably expected to be above 18.

Make sure that your advertising (pub posters, chalkboards, Facebook/Twitter, website) is geared towards adult readers, even if you are a "family friendly" venue. 

“Prohibit any alcohol beverage marketing communications that might be particularly attractive to minors by ensuring that the content of ads appeals primarily to adults.” Consistent guidelines and enforcement to ensure ads primarily appeal to adults over 18.
Avoid using any promotional images, symbols or cartoon characters that appeal primarily to those under legal purchase age. They might add zest to your marketing material in certain circumstances (for instance a School Disco night) but could inadvertently be misinterpreted to be appealing to the under-aged.

We all engage with our customers, whether it's just a poster in the pub or a full on Facebook page and Twitter presence so in line with responsible retailing and promotional activity (see my article on the How To Run A Pub website) pubs have yet another opportunity to be at the forefront of the hospitality industry by early adoption of the principles outlined above. 

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

A sledgehammer to crack a nut? Or just cracked or nuts?

I have finally had time to wade through HMRC's consultation document on Alcohol Fraud (all 46 pages of it) so I could understand what the perceived problem is and what proposals HMRC has in mind to reduce this "problem".

I used parenthesis on the word "problem" deliberately as the total amount of fraud HMRC is hoping to minimise is estimated (at their "implied midpoint") to be in the region of £500 millions in lost beer duty and some £130 millions from spirits for the year 2009/10. By my reckoning that comes to £630 millions in lost duty due to fraud by illegal importing and resale in the whole of the UK.. According to the Office on National Statistics the population of the UK in mid-2010 stood at 62,262,000. So the loss per capita is roughly £10.12.

So what are the arcane masters of the revenue proposing to do to recoup this massive amount we're notionally all depriving the Treasury of? Well let's take a look at the measures that would directly affect pubs (the list of proposals for brewers and wholesalers is a matter for them to consider, although any costs of compliance will undoubtedly be passed on to pubs).

The introduction of "fiscal" marks for packaged beer (cans and bottles) that you will already be familiar with on spirits bottles so that all can see that UK Duty Paid is visible on all packaging. This would enable the Revenue, as HMRC puts it, to "undermine the modus operandi of large scale beer smuggling operations". The proposed marks would apply thus:

So far so good ... and this is how they would enforce it:


which in turn would relate to pubs as:


All this, remember, to get back £10.12 per head of population.

I find this all a bit draconian (especially the review of licence threat) when you consider that HMRC's over-lord George Osborne is quoted today to be "shocked" at the  aggressive tax avoidance of 20 of Britain’s biggest tax payers avoiders who have used three main loopholes to legally reduce their their income tax bills by a total of £145 million in a year. That equates to roughly £7.5 millions per head of this elite top 20.

Don't even get me started on the likes of Amazon ... just suffice it to say that yet again it will be "ordinary" drinkers in pubs up and down the land that will pay the price for HMRC's latest wheeze. Still, at least "we're all in this together"

To have your say on this consultation go to HMRC  you've got until June 25th to put your tuppence worth (or £10.12 worth) in.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics ... Part 4

Minimum Pricing for Alcohol is being mooted as a solution to the problem of binge drinking.

The graph (right) is taken from a House of Commons Briefing Paper for MPs on Alcohol  it opens as a PDF.

Given that Cameron et al are calling for Minimum Pricing based partly on the rise in binge drinking ... well this is one sector of the population that is reducing this type of activity without minimum pricing.

What could have caused this drop in the absence of minimum pricing? Could it have been education and campaigns such as DrinkAware and the entire drinks industry from brewers to pubs?

Time to say "No To Minimum Pricing" as it will be the wedge that the health industry will use to force ever more draconian alcohol consumption controls ... just as the clean air campaign in pubs culminated in the smoking ban.

Apart from the ludicrous suggestion that a minimum price of 40p a unit would reduce consumption, the effect of this measure would disproportionately affect the less well off in our society, unlike the (ex)members of the Bullingdon Club if the picture I featured on April 1st is anything to go by ... and no, it wasn't a spoof.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Open Wide ...

It seems that not a day goes by without another health professional warning the public of the latest threat to public health caused by alcohol ... but always when drunk in excess... 

This is the latest proposal from The Royal College of Surgeons' Dental Journal:

Dentists should screen patients for signs that they drink too much alcohol, researchers have said. Questionnaires could be handed out at the start of consultations to identify those with hazardous drinking levels.

"Alcohol misuse can impact on the oral health of patients attending primary care services in numerous ways.
Excessive alcohol consumption is not only a risk factor for sustaining orofacial injury (either through falls, road traffic accidents or interpersonal violence) but also implicated in the aetiology of potentially fatal oral disease, including cancers of the mouth, larynx, pharynx and oesophagus."
Patients who drink lots also suffer tooth decay and erosion of the tooth surface and alcoholic drinks high in sugar may also contribute to the development of cavities they say.
"After screening, the individuals identified as misusing alcohol could then be offered treatment, including brief motivational advice sessions delivered by hygienists or dental nurses ...
Liaison with the patients' medical practitioner could also result in referral for specialist care should the patient demonstrate alcohol dependence or depression, for example."
All well and good until you listen to Professor Jonathon Shepheard (University of Cardiff, School of Dentistry) claim that
"... an estimated one in five men and one in seven women in the UK regularly binge-drink, which costs the UK economy approximately £25 billion a year ..."
Just where does he get his figures from? Probably the same databank that Andrew Lansley used to mislead the public into thinking that “Last year there were 1.2 million admissions to hospital associated with alcohol.”

And just what does "excessive alchohol consumption" actually mean? Unless they are referring to those recommended daily units so famously plucked from the air by "government scientists". 

Plenty of other culprits out there for dental problems ... they could start with soft drink and confectionary manufacturers for a kick-off.
So look out for more probing into your personal life by means of the pre-examination questionnaire at a dental surgery near you soon!

CAMRA girding its and our loins ...

CAMRA has really got behind the Scrap The Duty Rise Escalator with a dedicated website with oodles of downloadable resources such as these (and you can order publicity packs from them directly):

Campaign Logo

Beer Mat
A3 Poster
... and the link to the epitition.


Sunday, 1 April 2012

A Picture Paints A Thousand Words ... Part Two

Nuff said again ... eh?

As these contributors to Twitter said

Not a hoax - notice the Associated Press Copyright - bottom left corner