I read in the Morning Advertiser that in some areas, groups of licensees are operating "unofficial" minimum pricing schemes, whereby they agree not to sell alcohol at below a certain cost. Let's be clear about this. It is illegal to do so. It is operating a price fixing cartel, which is an unlawful activity in this country.
As if that isn't bad enough, it seems that such schemes are being encouraged, or even suggested by the police, or at least by the local licensing bobbies that attend PubWatch schemes. Now you, like me, might think that if such a thing was suggested, that the licensees would firmly turn down these illegal suggestions and maybe would actually report such goings on. But no - it seems some go along with it, despite the fact that it is they, not the police that would end up in (quite serious) trouble for so doing.
I talk to landlords a fair bit and there is much pressure - pressure that is contrary to the Licensing Act - put on publicans to do this and that from time to time, whether it be close early, or not open at all at the "request" of the police, despite their legal right to do so. When I point out the police can't do such and such a thing under the law, the answer is inevitably the same. "If I don't, they'll make life difficult for me."
The police have a hard enough time in administering public order, but they do tend to lump the innocent with the guilty. When they moan about late night drunkenness, it is invariably at certain venues that are repeat offenders, The police already have the powers to deal with these under the existing law, just as they can lock people up for being drunk and disorderly, exhibiting behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace, or in extreme cases, for being drunk and incapable. It is time they enforced existing laws and stopped encouraging the breaking of the law by hard pressed publicans. It is equally time that politicians addressed why existing powers are not being exercised, rather than pointless posturing and tinkering with prices.
The cops know where the problems are, be they completely pissed people, or the pubs that serve them when they are pissed (small minorities in both cases) and they should get on with sorting them out and leave the rest of us alone.
Politicians should make it clear that they have to do so.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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