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Should pubs and bars be doing more to incentivise sobriety?
Drinking trends in the UK have changed considerably over the last couple of years. The mid-2000s experienced a peak in binge drinking among adolescents but ever since then, there has been a slow decline in alcohol consumption, all the way through to 2020. People are becoming increasingly aware of the health risks posed by alcohol consumption and are now looking for better choices in drinks that complement their lifestyle such as alcohol-free alternatives and bespoke soft drinks.
Amidst all the press coverage of alcohol and the abuse of alcohol, the most hard-hitting fact was in 2018 when the NHS estimated that 338,000 people were admitted to hospital with injuries resulting from alcohol abuse.
But, with high statistics of alcohol related-hospital admittance, as well as the increased communal passion for health and wellbeing, comes increased levels of sobriety in the younger generation. Findings from Stylist.co.uk have been released that under 24’s who do not like to drink have increased from 18% to 29% in ten years which could be due to the increase in popularity of mindfulness and wellbeing.
This rise in sober drinking, moderation, mindful drinking and teetotalism has now been brought to the attention of some of the biggest brands in the drinks market. In 2019, Coca Cola and Greene King partnered up in the run-up to Christmas to reduce the risk of drink driving across the U.K. This initiative included all of Greene Kings’ branded pubs like Hungry Horse, Chef & Brewer and Farmhouse Inns. They offered free soft drinks to the designated drivers of the party who showed their keys when ordering at the bar. Metro newspaper wrote a piece on this, implying that Heineken had also joined the scheme, offering alcohol-free beers at the same time. Sadly, the offer ended with the festive season. However, such initiatives are definitely a step in the right direction. Its popularity proves that pubs and bars can help reduce irresponsible drinking by increasing their range of low and non-alcoholic products.
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Another company that brought back a popular campaign was Guinness for its ’new’ recipe of Guinness Clear, using the tag line “Make it a Night You’ll Remember”. This campaign collaborated with The Six Nations Rugby to encourage responsible drinking during the Rugby season. It’s not as shocking as some drink-drive adverts in the past, but it is a nod in the right direction that alcohol isn’t always necessary when it comes to enjoying ourselves and having a fun night out with friends.
A look into the potential rise in sobriety among university students revealed an increase in dry-bars and drastic changes in pub menus that now offer better choices of alcohol-free drinks and better incentives for sobriety like the free soft drinks that Greene King offered. Upon reading this, a question that hit me was, are pubs truly responsible for keeping their customers safe, if not necessarily sober?
Do pubs have a responsibility of care over their patrons?
D. Wetherspoons, an award-winning national pub chain, believe that the answer is yes. In a new article, it was stated that the pub will be banning parents from buying more than two alcoholic drinks while they have children accompanying them in the pub. The Evening Express reported that Wetherspoons are committed to “‘protecting children from harm’ after witnessing drunk parents letting their children ‘run around uncontrolled’”. Since the incident took place, in one of their Gravesend pubs, the infamous pub chain has issued this statement as a guideline but not necessarily company policy.
But is restricting the purchase of alcoholic drinks and increasing the range of low-alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks enough?
I believe that it is because of this demand that more bars have been opening under the classification of a ‘Dry Bar’. For those of you who are not familiar with the concept of a dry bar, these are spaces dedicated to serving only non-alcoholic drinks to their customers, creating a perfect environment for non-drinkers. These venues boast incredibly innovative alcohol-free menu’s, their walls are covered with exquisite non-alcoholic spirits and other drinks. These dry bars, sometimes referred to as ‘sober bars’ are becoming a safe haven for those who do not wish to be pressured into drinking, do not see the need for alcohol to socialise or are simply looking for a fun sober night out. This has been a big hit in the UK with bars such as Redemption (London) and The Brink (Liverpool) increasing in popularity.
It is no secret that these bars are extremely popular among the younger generation, but is that the key generation we should be worrying about? Alcohol Change states that “while youth drinking has been falling steadily, consumption among the older generations has remained the same. In fact, those aged between 55-64 are more likely than any other age group to drink alcohol excessively. A worrying insight and one that dry bars may not be the answer to.
In my opinion, mainstream pubs should be doing more to incentivise sobriety as this will lead to an overall change in the way Britons perceive binge drinking. However, I also believe that the change needs to start with the individual. If pubs were to get more actively involved in the sobriety movement, it could help to change the conversation of binge drinking and drunkenness in a much larger audience.
About the author:
Kamila is a bestselling author of “Bespoke. How to radically grow your bar and restaurant business through personalisation”, and a passionate trend-spotter, introducing her new line of alcohol-free, bespoke soft drinks.