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Thursday, 18 June 2009

Time gentlemen please: The demise of an English public house

As I run the office for Freedom To Choose I receive many letters from individuals and publicans alike, like Eileen Earnshow, an 82 year old retired BBC librarian forced out onto the cold streets surrounding her local library or Sue Hunter, licencee of the Nag's Head in Leeds who says, "four pubs around her are closing every week."

I am not the only one at F2C who hears from the public at the sharp end of this wretched smoking ban, my colleague Phil Johnson, (Pubs & Clubs liaison Officer for F2C,) relates this story told to him by a relative of the people concerned in the story below. These are real people and real events.

Over to you Phil:

In times gone by there was a thriving hub of the community-the local pub. No surprise there then! For years the pub serviced the needs of the rather large community surrounding the building, Thursday nights saw a steady trickle of newly paid workers, eager to regale each other of the weeks activities workwise-thus far. Fridays were normally a day of arduous toil for these hungover grafters.

Friday night was 'lift off' night as all habituees had been paid, drinks flowed, happiness reigned, cash tills rang constantly and 'Beryl' (identity protected) was oft seen to disappear upstairs to bury another £200 in the safe.

Saturdays was a similar story with the exception that 'Beryl would shut on time but still be open, if you see what I mean ;-) .

'Harold', 'Beryls' other half, was a mountain of a man with not a violent bone in his body but nobody messed with 'big H'. It was an unwritten law of the district, he had the total respect of the local community. Any sort of problems and Harold was the man to talk to, the font of all knowledge, a quiet but very intelligent man of the world.

As a busy community pub on the outskirts of a city it was not uncommon to be turning over £14K-£15K per week. The food side consisted merely of filled cobs & rolls at dinner times and the true benefactors of this very busy pub was the Chinese takeaway over the road. 'Beryl' was quite happy to allow her patrons the luxury of availing themselves of the outside seating to eat their foil wrapped meals whilst enjoying their beer as well. All in all a most convivial hostelry where the licensees knew the value of good customers.

The couple had run the pub for some 20 years, enjoying well deserved holidays abroad or here in Britain, always being welcomed home by their vast army of customers. Life was good. But then something happened that could not have been foreseen, something that ripped the very heart out of this social juggernaut of a hostelry.

The total workplace ban that engulfed the country on July 1st, 2007 made a mockery of this thriving business.

'Beryl', undaunted by this development simply moved the smokers into the back bar where there was always a door to the garden open-for easy escape one can only assume! It was quite noticeable that the front room was somewhat lacking in custom for the majority of the customers smoked.

All signage was prominently displayed as per the law, EHO's made appointments and checked that all was in compliance with this wonderful law, the law that promised millions of new customers to each and every hostelry in the land!

As summer turned to autumn and then to winter, Beryl & Harold saw turnover dropping like a stone in a pond. They decided to put on acts at night, pub quiz night was inaugerated & curry nights started (in a pub that had never bothered with food!). All this endeavour was to no avail. Takings still dropped. Worse was to come.

One of the few non smokers that used the pub informed the Environmental Health dept that smokers were still smoking in the back room of the pub and as an upstanding citizen of the land (and a non smoker!) this blatant lawbreaking must be stopped. The inevitable visits started, with the inevitable threats of pecuniary disembowelment via the courts-warnings were issued. They had no option but to stop the smokers using the back room.

Beryl became pale and drawn. Harold withdrew into himself, still a mountainous man but now terse, short tempered and not a man to be messed with in any way, shape or form.

Now, 15 months into the ban, the pub was struggling to turn over £2K per week; times were bleak but the non smoker who now enjoyed his dinner time ritual of 2 pints in splendid isolation at the bar considered his 'smoke free lot a happy lot'.

The stress became too much for Harold. He became very ill, visited the hospital for routine investigation and never returned having suffered a massive heart attack during the investigative process. Beryl was beside herself with grief and the brewery shut the now failed pub.

Beryl now lives on her own in a tiny council provided bungalow on whatever meagre benefits the state afford her. The pub now stands alone, graffiti adorned boards cover every window and doorway of this once thriving community pub. Redevelopment awaits this once proud monument of our social structure.

As for the hoardes of people who used this once proud establishment, well they have found a new game to play: it's called "garden hopping"!

The rules are very simple. Whoevers turn it is to host the weekend relaxations of drinking and smoking goes to the local ASDA and fills the car up with cheap booze. Many have already constucted drinking shelters (90% enclosed I might add) in their back gardens with tables, chairs and ashtrays in abundance. In fact a couple of them sport the ashtrays from the once vibrant hub of the community!

Every weekend they enjoy themselves the way they have always enjoyed themselves and will continue to enjoy themselves in the time honoured way of the working man.

The government may have changed the rules to suit the anti smoking brigade but what have they actually achieved in doing so? People have adapted to a different way of relaxing with pint & fag. People have shunned the pubs causing great distress to the pubco's-but so what! Had the pubco's had any balls in the first place they would have stood up for themselves against this so called healthism, the healthism that is set to save millions of lives yet certainly cost Harold his!

We had an establishment here that was turning over good money, week in, week out, yet it is now gone forever (as has Harold) just so that the big pharmaceuticals can make even more money on the back of the most carefully crafted piece of propaganda this country has ever witnessed.

The law cannot be proven to have saved one single life but the stress caused by this law has certainly caused a death!

The irony of this sad, but truthful tale, is that the ignorant non smoker is now complaining about his local pub being shut. The good news however, is that he has never been invited to any "garden hopping" events-nor ever will be. He is the new leper within the colony for he is shunned by all that surround him, so in a weird sort of way there is justice in this miserable control freak country of ours!

As told to Phil Johnson, Pubs&Clubs liaison officer for Freedom To Choose.


Anonymous said...

Brilliant article ,Phil,truly demonstrating
the destruction of a way of life once deeply
embedded in the British character.
My town Ashton u lyne (once a garrison town)
was an hub for the local SE Lancs area
100 pubs .clubs, discos, bars, taverns
catering for every taste
Now a wasteland ,venues boarded up,part closed,empty,dead or part filled with the
living dead. Even the salvation army has stopped selling the war cry
Wetherspoons has managed to attract the lost
souls from the closed pubs, an Enterprise
pub has reopened as a Kamp Karaoke venue.
A thugs den does "late sessions", take a
Rotweiller or a tame gorilla
Outside the bingo hall an handfull of old
ladies brace themselves against the ever
prevelent Pennine gusts , The young slither
into the tenements where cider and Smack
abound .

Who shall we blame, who is at fault,
better still who has allowed the rot to
fester,time will tell


Lawson Narse said...

Thank you. That was so good that I have stolen it and reposted it on my blog. I hope that's okay?

TheBigYin said...

No problem here Lawson, thanks.

david said...

It needs spreading to the scum in Westminster that are directly responsible for this. This is just a tale of just one casualty. How many others have suffered a similar fate?

Helen said...

As you say Phil, this is a true story and it is being replicated all over the country.

I agree - stuff the weak pubcos who fell for the propaganda and ignored their customers, just like we are now turning our backs on Labour who paid for the propaganda and created the rigged consultations and polls.

Many people have died as a result of this ban; many businesses have failed (and not only pubs); many people - like 82 year old Eileen - are being treated like lepers.

It's about time people woke up. Smokers and non-smokers can live together without the hate and denormalisation that the blanket ban has caused. There are many sensible and affordable solutions.

The ban, as we all know, will eventually fail. I'm looking forward to seeing whose head falls with it and who the scapegoat will be.

Interesting times ahead, no doubt.

Anonymous said...

The anti smoking industry is one of the recession proof businesses that are operating today.
Money is being thrown at these services and this money is no doubt being backed up by the Pharmaceutical companies.
Doctors and pharmacists are being paid to give out NRT and the anti smoking organisations are raking in the money. No wonder these organisations are spreading fake 'facts' as their jobs and perks rely on taxpayers money to exist.
There is no scientific evidence of any of the anti smoking propaganda and it is just one big money making venture for all that are involved plus a crusade for those that are sucked in by the lies.
How long before the smokers are forcibly made to 'quit' by mandatory injections of NRT before they can take employment/have children /get medical help etc.
This nazi regime stinks.

Curmudgeon said...

Excellent post, summing up the irreparable damage the smoking ban is wreaking on working-class pubs and communities.

And Visigoth's comments are spot-on about Ashton.

See my post here linking to it.

How any member of the working class can still vote for the Labour Party knowing how it has abandoned their interests totally eludes me.

Disgusted said...

Taxpayers money funding the Anti-Smoking lobby.

Page 7 Appendix 2 h.

" GPs and Pharmacies are reimbursed for service delivery (inflation still to be applied for 09-10):

£10.50 for each client setting a quit date.
£40 for each client still quit at 4-week follow-up
£10.50 for each client not quit at 4-week follow-up. No additional payment for those not followed up at 4 weeks.
Pharmacies only - £3 per supply of NRT. "

Anonymous said...

Even grass-roots football clubs are suffering. These clubs need members to spend money over the bar to pay the various costs of running the club. The number of members have declined since the smoking ban. If these clubs close, children could lose the facilities to play football.

Anonymous said...

No wonder we are being fed lies about the 'dangers' of smoking and 'second hand smoke' by the medical profession. The bastards are being paid to get us on to nicotine replacement therapy. How much more are the doctors and M.P.'s being bribed by the drug companies to push their products and make them £billions ?
We are being threatened to stop smoking all the time by these people? Not because they care about our health, they care about their pockets only.
I'ts about time people woke up to this total control that is required. It's all about money.

TheBigYin said...

Thanks Curmudgeon, excellent post and great blog. I know Visigoth (Barry) personally as he comes to the F2C North of England meetings each month or so at Drighlington just outside Bradford. He is a tireless worker for F2C and is really pissed off about the devastation this acrimonious smoking ban has brought about in the hospitality industry.

Chris said...

I agree Anon - it's all to do with power, greed, money and control and has nothing to do with health.

The blanket ban has brought along so many health problems which are just swept under the carpet and ignored.

These people are evil and do not care about others as long as they're making their millions.

TheBigYin said...

Chris, here's a comedian that says exactly that near the end of his short spot Here.

Anonymous said...

Curmudgeon wrote 'How any member of the working class can still vote for the Labour Party knowing how it has abandoned their interests totally eludes me.'

Many will not for anything else because, in their view, there is nothing else

anonsmoker said...

Disgusted wrote '£10.50 for each client setting a quit date.
£40 for each client still quit at 4-week follow-up
£10.50 for each client not quit at 4-week follow-up. No additional payment for those not followed up at 4 weeks.
Pharmacies only - £3 per supply of NRT. "'

This is preposterous - an almost irresistable temptation to exaggerate the 4 week quit figures. How the f*** can these people be impartial and honest? After all, the government only want to hear good news.

And lets not forget the wonderful outcome of all this utter waste of our money - 98.4% failure at 12 months.

marley said...

Maybe we are overlooking a huge possibility here. Maybe the pubcos and breweries are receiving big back handers to follow this idea of smoke free. follow the money! If expenses are so easy to fiddle then paying off the 'right' people should be easy as well. After all no businessman would destroy their livelyhood following a fools ideal. There has to be something substantial in this smokefree shite for business to go along with it. so lets find out what it is. Again follow the money, it will be their downfall.

TheBigYin said...

Anon, it's just a case of 'give us your effing money momey! It is simply a trade, the want funding and what better way of getting it...well smoking of course. Esay fucking meat!

Helen said...

I agree marley - it's all about money.

The anti-smoking industry is big business now across the world. Anti-smoking activist David Goerlitz has also just confirmed this in his recent interview where he stated that tobacco control stated:
"This is no longer going to be about health, it’s going to be about money"

He also exposed the never-ending corruption of the industry, including the time he was told to lie in court against the tobacco industry!

There's been so many whistleblowers now and so many of the claims that they make proven to be untrue - yet still our MPs remain brainwashed.

I too am beginning to wonder whether they are staying brainwashed on purpose. What else can it be?

TC have had it confirmed it's not about health, people are losing their jobs as a result of it, people are dying as a result, communities and families are breaking up as a result of it, etc, etc.

What decent person would not put a stop to all this? All that is needed are affordable, sensible solutions to allow choice, then everyone is catered for.

That's not good enough for the greedy though. They're willing to witness the destruction as long as their pockets are being lined with their deadly products - and laugh at it too!

Anonymous said...

superb post Phil, thank you.
I have to agree with all the comments, the money, the greed, Big Pharma, the people and communities, it has affected. The elderly who do not have computors whose voice rarely gets heard and the so called "charities" who give away public donations, that does not come under research. What a shambles and disgrace, Helen, I would like to know how many "decent MPs" voted for this ban? and how many who have been lining their own pockets, yet seek to "denormalise" us?
As for the "legal drug pushers" that stinks far worse than any amount of smoke.

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