The New Class War on Pubs

Covid war is class war

The anti-pub measures in the UK government’s revamped lockdown reflect another sort of ‘tiered’ system: a class war on the kind of hospitality enjoyed by the drinking masses.

The exasperated chief executive of UK Hospitality, Kate Nichols, declared this week that, ‘We’re at a loss to understand the justification for singling out pubs and hospitality for this treatment’. Join the queue, Kate (but not at the bar; table service only with proper meals, if at all). Many have queried why pubs have been hit hardest under the UK government’s authoritarian new tiers-for-fears system, which comes into force next week.

Pubs in Tier 3 regions will not be allowed to open their doors at all, while those in Tier 2 will only be allowed to serve drinks as part of ‘substantial meals’ – even outside. This, warns the industry, will be a death sentence for many ‘wet pubs’ – that is, normal ones which tend to sell more beer than beer-battered fish – in the run-up to Christmas.

Critics ask in vain for the evidence to show how these extraordinary pub-drubbing measures will make a difference to the spread of Covid-19. Answer comes there none from the entrail-gazing scientific advisers now apparently driving the disastrous ‘lockdown-followed-by-lockdown’ policy of this headless chicken of a Tory government.

You need not be any kind of crank or ‘Covid denier’ to see one reason why many in authority might be content to pick on the hospitality sector in this way. Because these elitists hate pubs, and always have done.

They especially hate raucous, proper ‘wet pubs’, where working-class people go to stand at the bar, drink beer and carouse together. The fear and loathing of the public house reflects the fear and loathing our rulers and betters feel towards large sections of the public.

As I noted on spiked back in March, near the start of the coronavirus crisis, ‘Some of those voices demanding a lockdown have always disliked mass gatherings, raucous pubs and frequent travel. A crisis can also serve as an opportunity.’ In this as elsewhere, the Covid crisis has acted as a catalyst to accelerate already-existing trends in our society.

No, no, Boris and top Tories will insist, we love the pub, heart of ye olde British community and all of that. Perhaps. But the sort of hostelry some of them might enjoy is very different from that beloved of normal pub-going people.

Their game is well and truly given away in the new Tier 2 regulations, which decree that drink can only be served by pubs which also offer ‘substantial meals’. Gastro-pub menu and a nice bottle of Gavi at a candlelit table? Certainly madame. Two pints of lager and a packet of crisps at the bar? On your bike, mate.

The Campaign for Real Ale lists four defining characteristics of a traditional British pub: it is open to the public, serves draught beer or cider without requiring food to be consumed, has indoor areas not laid out for meals, and allows drinks to be bought at the bar. By these criteria, there will be no proper pubs in England for the foreseeable future.

The English alehouse has a long history, but pubs as we know them really developed in the 19th century, along with the industrial working classes who frequented them. Having first sought to encourage wider beer drinking as a healthy alternative to gin, through the Beerhouse Act of 1830, the authorities quickly turned to trying to control the workers’ imbibement of ale. One way or another, they have been trying to do so ever since.

From the Victorian era onwards, the anti-alcohol temperance movement emphasised the religious and moral case against the demon drink. These days, in line with the decline of Christian belief and the medicalisation of moralism, those warning about the dangers of drinking tend to rely on the health-and-safety case for sobriety. The use of the Covid crisis to close down pubs for the good of public health fits the agenda of contemporary priggishness.

But these are only temporary measures, right? Even if true, they are bad enough. We might however recall the ‘emergency’ licensing laws imposed to restrict pub hours in Britain during the First World War. Those temporary rules lasted the best part of a century.

Even when licensing hours were finally relaxed by Tony Blair’s New Labour government in 2003, the explicit intention was to calm down and sanitise the pubs by creating a more relaxed ‘continental-style café culture’. Having not entirely succeeded in that aim, the pub-bashing lobby has sought new ways to take the froth off our beer.

For some in high places, the government’s new tiered assault still does not go nearly far enough. On Sunday, one member of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) told Sky News that, ‘In the years of Prohibition they tried to change the hours, they tried to say you could only drink if you had a meal, and everyone is very inventive and finds ways around it. Fiddling at the edges of something like drinking-up times or pubs’ closing times is simply not an effective mechanism.’ The dread word Prohibition, the failed system under which the USA amended its constitution to ban the legal sale of booze altogether between 1920 and 1933, can now be dropped into serious debate again.

The authorities are always expressing concern about the potential impact of the coronavirus crisis on the nation’s social wellbeing and mental health. If they were serious, they would not be waging a class war on the pubs that play an important role in sustaining those things for many.

No doubt that SAGE grinch is partly right, and many pubs and punters will indeed be finding ways to get around the new clampdown. (My wife and I both recalled how, in 1970s Manchester, when one of the few late-night drinking holes was ordered to sell food to justify its licence, they started handing out half a tomato to each paying customer at the door.)

But fiddling the system is not enough. We should take a principled stand in defence of the pub in all its beer-soaked, sometimes-gory, glory. (While also upholding the right to enjoy a good meal and wine as you choose, of course.) As the beery Sir Toby Belch tells the self-righteous Malvolio in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: ‘Does thou think, because THOU art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?’ To which the present-day prigs advancing under cover of the coronavirus crisis would probably respond, ‘There shall be no more ale for the likes of you – and cakes do not constitute a substantial meal’.

Source: Spiked

  1. Ronnie&MargaretInDementia says

    To be fair the English deserve everything they get. Theyve voted Tory for ten years despite a decade of austerity, 3 awful leaders and brexit, they stood by and watched the assassination of Jeremy Corbyn by the deep state, the press and Isreal, now their prize for being so utterly fucking clueless is to be locked in the pretty little cages that they sold the best years of their lives to buy on a 40 year mortgage to banks who literally invented the money out of thin air and demand not only the fake money paying back but with interest. The UK middle classes are worse than useless and have sat on their hands like good little boys and girls allowing themselves to be proletarianised. You get the govt you deserve and England is now in neoliberal purgatory passing through to brexit hell, lets hope the Scots recapture their party and get independence sorted sharpish. Covid is the smoke and mirrors for the great reset davos style, nothing for the majority, everything for the piggies.

  2. ke4ram says

    This is so tiresome….

    Okay morons,,,

    This is not about any virus.
    This is not about keeping you safe.

    This is about control.
    This is about power.
    This is about money.
    This is about eliminating you and your footprint from this world.

    At this point how can anyone believe any of their horse hockey. They’re sure as hell not hiding it!

    And Pubs! Trust me,,, that will be the last of your worries after you take their poison.

  3. voza0db says

    If been writing the same for a while now…

    Get ready to KILL or be culled.

    Until several Jedburgh’s actions aren’t executed nothing will change except the things the SRF & Billionaires via jesters want to CHANGE!

  4. Raptar Driver says

    What we are witnessing is the final death throes of the satanic world order that has existed since Eve bit into the apple.
    You Covidians have the mark of the beast, Your time is short.

    1. Séamus Ó Néill says

      Anyone who’s studied world history would certainly agree, all monolithic empires, by their very natue, become top heavy, riddled with an insatiable greed and unable to maintain their cohesion, infrastructure and military power…but this time it’s different, the fabric, the whole evil ethos that has held this planet in slavery for countless eons is crumbling. It’s not just America, Israel or the UK, but the whole western driving force, the whole methodology behind the colonialism, the monetary entrapment, the genocides and the secret occult societies are under severe and unrelenting pressure. It’s a war that’s been rageing from the beginning of humanity and it’s conclusion is at hand….humanity will finally be free !

      1. Saint Jimmy (Russian American) says

        I’m not that optimistic but we could be witnessing the beginning of huge changes that happen about once per millennium.

    2. Canosin says

      don’t blame Eve……she was/ is innocent…..
      evil existed long before humans were created

      1. zonmoy says

        evil was in the divine all along thus if there is any got he cant help but to create evil as part of itself.

      2. Raptar Driver says

        Yes it existed long before humans however she brought it into the human realm along with her Paramour. He could have stood up to The woman but like most men he was pussy whipped.

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