Friday, 9 February 2018

The legacy of WW I

As a young man, I didn't realise how much the drinking landscape in Britain had been defined by WW I.

Things like afternoon closing, relatively low-strength beer, restrictions on off-sales - all the really annoying stuuf. It was all a legacy of WW I. And quite deliberate. Looking back, it seems ludicrous that pubs had to shut for at least two hours every afternoon. And even crazier that on Sunday, a day with bugger all to do, the pubs were only open for a few hours.

"In view of the renascence of constructive activity, it is therefore important to note what features of licensing reform have been shown, by the experience of the period of Control, to be of the greatest significance. Setting aside minor details, it may be safely said that if the immediate standard be the suppression of intemperance, the legislative efforts of the near future should be directed to the following objectives —

(1) The hours of sale. The pre-war "drinking day" was excessively long, and the needless hours of sale encouraged intemperance. A wide consensus of opinion condemns the morning sale of drink, and approves the appointment of hours of sale to accord with the customary meal-times of the people. There is good ground also for the belief that the suspension of the sale of alcohol between the meal-hours is a substantial aid in the reduction of intemperance.

(2) Additional restraints on the sale of spirituous liquors; particularly as regards "off" sales, and the lowering of alcoholic strength by dilution.

(3) The inhibition of such incentives to alcoholic indulgence as treating, the "long pull," and the retail sale of liquor on credit.

(4) The reduction, on a large scale, of the present excessive number of licensed premises.

(5) The recognition in law, by a substantial increase of penalties, that drunkenness or the supply of drink to a drunken person is "a serious crime against the community."

(6) Due provision for the remedial — as opposed to the punitive — treatment of inebriety.

It should be expressly stated that the proposals advanced in the foregoing paragraphs are not to be read as an argument for an indefinite continuance of the powers of the Control Board, or of their policy in all its details ; but rather as a series of deductions drawn from the actual operation of the scheme of Liquor Control, and as a claim on public grounds for the preservation, by the most appropriate means, of the economic and social advantages already obtained."
"The Control of the Drink Trade" by Longmans, Green & Co., London, 1919, pages 274 - 275.
This plan was put into practice in the 1920's. Looking deeper you can see that it isn't really about restricting access to alcohol. It's about restricting the access of the working classes to drink. What's really annoying is that all the restrictions were probably unneccessary. With the increased price of alcohol and lower-strength beer, it was unlikely that the pre-war situation would have returned.

Was the ban on the sale of alcohol on credit ever revoked? If not, is paying by credit card in a pub technically legal?

Of course, there are dark forces that would love to restrict pub hours again. The bastards.

1 comment:

The Beer Nut said...

The ban on credit was introduced in the Licensing Act 1921. It was renewed and qualified very slightly in the 1953 and 1964 acts. It looks to have stayed on the statute book up until the 2003 act repealed pretty much the whole licensing and entertainment law corpus and started again. It does not include a prohibition on credit.

The article before the credit ban in that sequence of acts is the ban on serving more than the stated measure. That happy little bump of liquid above the pint line left the pub liable to a £30 fine until 2003.