Staying at Home
Apparently more people took part in Dry January this year than ever before. That is not surprising given the reported additional consumption of alcohol during lockdown periods. I have also seen a report which, equally not surprisingly, claims that home brewing is one of the hobbies to see significant growth over the last year.
In February, Loughborough University, in conjunction with Heineken UK and the Campaign to End Loneliness, issued a report called Open Arms: The Role of Pubs in Tackling Loneliness. I suspect that most readers of this magazine do not need to be told that pubs have a key role to play in their communities in tackling loneliness among people of all ages and backgrounds and that they offer a social value above and beyond the contribution they make to the economy. The report also explains that pubs are an important part of community infrastructure, with equal value to libraries, cafés and community centres. This was true before the coming of COVID and has been greatly increased by it.
Nik Antona, CAMRA’s National Chairman (speaking before the Budget) commented, “CAMRA welcomes this report which shows just how much pubs matter to individuals and communities, and why they are worth saving so that they can reopen and thrive post-COVID. Our pubs provide a safe, regulated environment in which to relax with a drink and mix with people of other age groups and backgrounds – and are often the only place left for people in many communities to meet. Yet too many had already closed even before COVID, with the coronavirus crisis put tens of thousands more at risk of permanent closure. It is vital that governments across the UK recognise the role that pubs will play as part of our social fabric, bringing people back together after this pandemic, and take action now to save our pubs. The Chancellor’s upcoming Budget is the perfect opportunity to commit to a long-term financial support package for pubs and breweries to see them through the tough months ahead. Pubs need greater help to get back on their feet again, which can be achieved by ending unfair and un-evidenced restrictions like the ‘substantial meal’ requirement once they are allowed to reopen.”
If there is concern about increased levels of alcohol consumption then the sooner pubs reopen the better. That may seem counter-intuitive to those who believe that pubs are a health risk. In fact, pubs provide a controlled and responsible environment for the consumption of alcohol. In the pub, people are more likely to drink beer than the cheap supermarket spirits that many have been consuming at home. Furthermore, if the additional alcohol consumption was driven by loneliness, the pub must be the better option.