Apas Nottingham Drinker

Published on October 28th, 2013 | by Nottingham Drinker

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Reducing alcohol harm in Erewash – I think not!

Reducing alcohol harm in Erewash – I think not!
Nick Tegerdine explains his concerns.

Recently Erewash Borough Council and Derbyshire Police triumphantly proclaimed their striking joint initiative, designed to reduce alcohol related harm. I was asked by the BBC to comment. On enquiring as to the detail of this scheme, I struggled to believe what I was being told. This initiative was to launch, with attendant media fanfare, a series of beer mats. These were, according to the press release, to be distributed to on licenses throughout Erewash. The beer mats were printed with the usual approximations of unit content. The purpose? Apparently to reduce alcohol related harm by giving people information about how many units are in their glass of beer, wine or spirits, reasoning that if people knew this information then they would adjust their consumption accordingly, all other factors being of no importance at all!

Readers of this column will know that my regard of the UK units system is low. Simply put, it does precious little good, if any at all. I could, it space permitted, advance a witheringly strong argument that the system actually does harm. This Erewash campaign would form part of such argument. To learn that various officials and hard pressed Police personnel had spent numerous hours in darkened rooms to produce beer mats, repeating information that is already in the public domain, represents to me a spectacular statement that ‘they’ just don’t know what to do. Further, that the custodians of public sector resources are sometimes less than diligent in their application of management practice.

Let me give just one example that would reduce harm. There is a problematic convenience store in Erewash, close to the home of a colleague. More than once we have observed groups of clearly underage lads buying a slab of ‘happy shopper’ lager from the back door. The server in these scruffy premises is often drunk. Older drinkers buy strong white cider and super strength lager from the shop, then drink it on the nearby railway bridge, which is within the designated public place zone intended to discourage public drinking. Public urination is common, as is dog fouling and the persistent intimidation of passersby, sometimes with extreme racial overtones. I have seen this happen. My colleague sees it every week and has complained. Despite assurances from a local Councillor, the problems continue.

The perpetrators of this behaviour have no fear of any consequence, possibly because the officers are in conference rooms, with refreshments, and involved in detailed discussions about beer mats. A friend of a friend (without benefits) who is a serving Police Officer in Erewash, dealing every weekend with incidents of violence against the person, particularly in the home, read this article as a draft. On reaching the above paragraph she nodded and smiled knowingly.

Before writing this piece I went to check what was happening in the vicinity of the particular shop referred to above. I saw again what I have already described, and experienced abuse when challenging the drunks who were intimidating to others. I observed people clearly drunk being served in the shop. I then visited nearby public houses to acquire one of these ‘situation changing’ beer mats. At the third attempt I found one. I noticed that the information given was, as is the case with standard units’ information, hopelessly vague. I didn’t see anyone reading it. In the bar I counted 54 beer mats advertising alcoholic drinks, and two (now one) of the Erewash / Police ones.

The impression is that it is easier to sit in darkened rooms regurgitating already published information than it is to go and do something that would make a difference. If the beer mats are the best that the responsible authorities can do, and in the face of the experiences in and around just one convenience store, then we have truly plumbed new depths of slackness and ineptitude.

On ‘foodie’ pubs and real ale.

During a recent visit to a pub with a reputation for good food, I was pleased to observe a bank of eight hand pulls on the bar, serving in the main ‘locales’. The menu was exciting, the staff beautiful, proficient and Polish, the wine list adventurous and extensive, and the surroundings exceedingly comfortable and expensively done, apparently overseen by the ‘lady’ of the nearby big house who is, I am informed, related to royalty.

I ordered a pint whilst considering the menu. A glass of something resembling a lentil broth arrived. I politely explained that the product was not acceptable and that perhaps a mistake had been made. This was acknowledged and a promise of a replacement of the same ale was given. After five minutes, during which I observed a bemused looking chap scurrying to and from the cellar, a similarly abject pint arrived. This was similarly returned and I requested another ale from another brewery. This duly arrived and was, frankly, as appetizing as the contents of the communal urinal at a railway station on New Year’s Eve. By this time the contagion had spread and guests at adjacent tables were not accepting their beer. From my vantage point at least a dozen pints were poured, served, and then rejected.

If good, fresh local food goes in the back door of a kitchen, and the meal served is not good, then someone has done something wrong. The same applies to ale. In this particular establishment the staff politely acknowledged the complaints of me and others, but clearly did not have a clue what was wrong or what to do about it. The top man also demonstrated an unfortunate curl of the upper lip that made me feel for the fox rather than the hound.

The beautifully polished hand pulls perhaps did not serve enough ale to justify such a range of locales. The staff, sadly and typically, clearly did not understand how to run a cellar, and to serve a pint of good ale. The unintended consequence is that the notable trend of younger people to consume real ale, and especially locales, is hindered because, in the words of a one of my companions on that fateful evening, it looked like wee-wee.

It is of great significance that the establishment in question, owned by the English blue-blooded aristocracy, were charging almost four pounds per pint! The ale, like the food and the wine, has to be right, no matter what the price. Even at half the price charged I would have returned the products offered to me, despite their local and esteemed reputation. Pleasingly, other customers followed suit and did the same. If it ain’t right, fix it!

Let’s see if the management of that hostelry take note. They were certainly told, with lip curling consequences. On fear of being hung, drawn and quartered I shall return in due course, in disguise and with female minders aplenty, to see what, if anything, has changed. If I live to tell the tale I’ll report back in due course.



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