** This blog was originally written when plans for a pub on the M40 Services at Beaconsfield were originally announced. Now that the pub has opening, it seems an appropriate time to ask the question again – Pubs on Motorway Services – a good or bad idea ?
It’s been widely reported in the press that national pub chain Wetherspoon’s has been granted permission to open a pub and restaurant on a motorway service area in the UK, on the M40 in Buckinghamshire
The BBC News article can be found here > http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-22760874
The Daily Mail, in their article published here > http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2335001/Wetherspoons-plans-open-24-hour-motorway-service-station-PUB.html points out that this is in fact not the first – with Harvester opening its first motorway restaurant selling alcohol, at Moto services on the M1 at Donington Park in Leicestershire two weeks ago, all thanks to the Home Office relaxing the rules on alcohol sales on the motorway.
Wetherspoon’s chairman Tim Martin is quoted in the BBC article as saying “The company has always been innovative and this is an exciting new development for us” and “Hopefully it will be the first of many Wetherspoon’s on the motorway.”
However, a spokeswoman for Brake, the national Road safety charity said: “The opening of a pub on the motorway could be of real concern unless safeguards are put in place with strong messages to warn about the dangers of drink-driving. As it is putting temptation there in front of drivers, it is doubly important the messages are extra clear. Our advice to drivers is if you are driving, don’t drink any amount of alcohol.”
Brake also points out that “each month in Great Britain 23 people are killed and 108 people are seriously injured by drivers over the drink-drive limit”.
And Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: “To reduce alcohol-related harm, we have to reduce its availability, not increase it. Opening a bar at a service station sends out completely the wrong message if we are trying to prevent harm from alcohol-related traffic accidents.”
Undeterred, a Wetherspoon’s spokesman said: “We believe the majority of people that use the pub to drink will be people that aren’t driving – coach parties or people travelling with others”, however they went on to say “We won’t be asking them whether they are driving. It’s up to them.”
Speaking as someone who, every single week, has to deal with people drinking and driving on our roads, and only too often has to pick up the pieces when the amount of alcohol ‘on board’ has won the battle between safety and stupidity, from my point of view this must stand as one of the most odd pieces of the relaxation of alcohol licencing policy I’ve seen.
The only way to get to a Motorway Services are is in a vehicle. By making, and indeed actively promoting, the availability of alcohol in a place you can only get to in a car / bus / van / lorry, to me is ‘normalising’ the relationship between drinking and driving, when in reality we should be making even stronger attempts to go in the other direction !!
Many years of successful campaigning by many groups / organisations has managed to make drink-drinking for the most part socially unacceptable and has been our biggest weapon in the war. this one swift move WILL undo all that work and if, as Wetherspoon’s (and no doubt many other companies sitting, waiting to see how this pans out) want, this is only the first of many such outlets, then reverse gear will have been well and truly engaged !
What is important though, is that we can’t blame Wetherspoon’s, or any other company – they are working within the law and are doing nothing wrong legally.
But what do you think ? Is the opening of pubs on Motorway Services areas a GOOD or a BAD idea ?? Vote below.