Saturday, 2 June 2012

Scotland's plea for improved public houses

What a weird, twisted bunch temperance campaigners were. They didn't want to see pubs improve. Oh no. They wanted them to remain miserable drinking dens so that they could campaign against them more easily. It seems to be the main reason they kept pushing the local veto polls when it became clear that no more than a handful of districts would ever vote to go dry.

Why did the veto polls stop pubs improving? Because the threat of having your pub snatched away from you once every three years was a huge disincentive to making any improvements.

The improved public-house is the bete noir of the enemies of the Trade. Although the so-called Scottish (Temperance) Act of 1913 has failed, and has resulted in not one licence being permanently extinguished, it has succeeded in one particular it has kept the licensed houses of Scotland relatively antiquated and unimproved. From the point of view of the rigid teetotaler, therefore, it has by no means been abortive.

But this is only one side of the question. In Scotland the vast majority of licensed premises are owned by their occupiers, over whose heads has hung the shadow of the guillotine since the Act became operative in 1920. A man whose business may he extinguished at any triennial period, whose security of tenure is subject to the possibility of extinction every three years, is least of all likely to be found modernising or adapting his premises by the expenditure of large sums to this end.

It has for some years been obvious to any student of the liquor position in Scotland that matters cannot remain where they are, moribund, in the rut of the teetotalers' making. The Scottish Royal Commission in its Majority Report dealt the Act of 1913 a severe body blow, but refrained from giving it the complete knock-out. "Let it go on yet a little while longer," they said in effect, "for peradventure wisdom in the matter will arise from the people themselves."

Meanwhile, Lord Salvesen, Chairman of the Scottish Public-House Reform League, has loosened the controversial cat amongst the teetotal pigeons by addressing to Members of Parliament two questions. The first asked whether they favour legislation for the improvement of public-houses on the basis that such premises should receive a definite security of tenure so long as they are properly conducted; the second asks whether they favour abolition of the triennial Local Veto polls. We doubt not that of those to whom the questionnaire was addressed a number will be engaged in giving "no reply." Others, if they represent Scottish constituencies, will probably be seeking some "safety first" answers in an endeavour successfully to skate over the thin ice which Lord Salvesen has prepared for their doubtful enjoyment.

But something must be done. All constructive, proposals for reform have been sidetracked for many years past; so far as the improvement of existing licensed houses and of new ones is concerned, stagnation has prevailed. Meanwhile, the triennial polls have confessedly become a dead letter, from which not even the centenary of teetotalism and the "seven wise men of Preston" were capable of reviving them."
Brewers' Journal 1934, page 246.

I must find out when (if ever) the idiot local veto polls were stopped. They couldn't still be continuing, could they?


Matt said...

I can't make my mind up whether the people proposing a maximum daily consumption of a quarter of a pint of beer are secretly prohibitionists afraid to argue for their real position or just academics divorced from reality.

Ron Pattinson said...

Matt, I suspect a bit of both. I'm actually pleased that they came up with such an idiotic maximum because no-one will take it seriously. Thy've just made themselves look ridiculous.

Rob said...

The idiotic local polls still exist, they have just moved from Scotland to Kentucky.

They dont reoccur on a regular basis like you described, but any precinct can declare themselves dry via vote. Im not sure the process of getting it onto the ballot, probably x% of the registering voters signing a petition.

Four precincts in Louisville did this in 2007.

Barm said...

The pub in the photograph was next door to Baird's brewery, the ancestor of today's Baird malting company.

joe v berlin said...

Gentlemen, I need your assistance to find out when did "Snow's Chop House" at 3-4 Sherwood Street London W1 close down. Can anyone remember it trading as a pub still in 1974 (or thereafter)? Is there a chance that it traded under another name under new ownership after this date? It was a Younger's pub serving Youngers Scotch Ale.

"Snow's Chop House" was located just across from the main entrance from the old Regent Palace Hotel on the corner of Glasshouse and Sherwood Street.
The pub had on its interior surrounding wall frieze, a series of old painted coloured murals around the bar - depicting the evolution of the London Gin Laws - a bit like 'Punch Magazine' caricatures and showing people in various states of dissipation and inebriation. The era that I was there - and am referring to - was the mid to late 1970's.
Or is my memory playing tricks and was it Bobby's Bar at Nr. 9 Glasshouse Street that had the murals?

Today the former "Snow's Chop House" is a place called Bar Blanca and before 2006 it was a Pizza restaurant called "Alabahma Pizza Pasta". Nobody there can tell me anything about "Snow's" and when it closed down.

Here is a photo from 1953 that may help jog a memory or two.