Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The laughing stock of the world

(nb. I am not the Devil's Kitchen)

Summer has arrived which, for me and my kind, means a chance to reacquaint ourselves with the British public house. Alas, as Josie Appleton of the Manifesto Club reminds us over at Reason.com, British pubs are being systematically destroyed by jumped up little Hitlers.
One Staffordshire pub hurriedly axed its 25-year-old dominos team, when police discovered that it lacked a license for sporting activity. Once the landlady had acquired a license, though, she discovered that nobody would be allowed to watch the dominos, since this "would constitute a live sporting event" and require a further license. The pub was also missing other key licenses, she said: "I was told that I couldn't have music playing, I can have the TV on but with no sound. The regulars can't sing any songs."

Dancing also requires official paperwork. One unlicensed York pub was threatened with a £20,000 fine, after an "impromptu jig by pensioner Mavis Brogden."


There's more of this - much more - all of which can be filed under 'You Couldn't Make It Up'. Barely-elected town councillors and bone-idle, authoritarian Chief Constables have had their powers inflated way beyond their limited capabilities by the Licensing Act and this is the result. A law intended to give local 'communities' a say in running their own affairs has instead given every local bansturbator a fresh weapon with which to clobber us. The terrifying thing is not that these fuckers overstep the line, but that are utterly unaware that any line exists. A pox upon them all.

Go and have a read of the whole depressing thing, and don't miss the comments from the septic tanks, if you want a reminder of how low our nation's stock has fallen in the world:

"England has become a land of pussies."
"The sun has set on the British Empire."
"I always wanted to visit the UK. Now, not as much. Every day I read something on this site that makes me want to never go there and sure as hell never ever ever ever ever live there."
"I was trying to remember why we (the States) broke away from the mother country (the rest of you in the UK); then I read this article and I say to myself "Oh yeah, this kind of crap". Timeliness! Red tape never looses its appeal!"
"I have no desire to ever go to London now. First the complete coverage of the whole country with video cameras, then this, no way I will go there."

God, I hate this country.

42 comments:

John B said...

Note that the majority of things filed under "You Couldn't Make It Up" turn out to, in fact, have been made up, or heinously exaggerated (the 'jigging pensioner' piece was before the Licensing Act; all the 'events scuppered by not having right license' stories would have been fine had the landlord applied for the right license, which in the cases listed they would unequivocally have been granted without any problems). I can drive reasonably well; I don't have a valid British driving license; I could acquire one easily - but not quite sure why it'd be OK if I chose to drive in the UK without doing so.

The rules exist to deal with pissed-up booze sheds in town where kids drink until they're sick and/or fighting. I don't particularly give a fuck about such binge drinking, but the general public appear to do so. The current system punishes fighting-bingeing-sheds, and the only collateral damage is among landlords who're too daft to put in for the right licenses at renewal time.

Finally, perhaps also note that the subset of Yanks who read extreme-right magazines are hardly our core admirers at the best of times: 1776 and all that...

John B said...

Specific question: should I be allowed to open a £1-a-shot 24-hour disco next door to your house? If not, any complaints about the licensing system (whose aim is broadly to ensure responsible landlords can run their pubs properly, and irresponsible ones can be stopped) are a load of cant.

Ian B said...

I proffer an explanation via this posting at Counting Cats.

Martin said...

As I said over at my blog, this over-regulation of people's "free time" reminds me a lot of the nazi's concept of Kraft Durch Freude: in other words, you're working how we tell you, and now you'll play like we tell you.

Roger Thornhill said...

And people want to devolve power to these scrotes?

Power should be devolved to the individual first and foremost.

JuliaM said...

"There's more of this - much more - all of which can be filed under 'You Couldn't Make It Up'."

Sadly, they could. And they have. And for once, I agree with the Yanks.

What the hell have we turned into?

"all the 'events scuppered by not having right license' stories would have been fine had the landlord applied for the right license"

Because nothing says 'A free people' like having to get a license to do...well, anything really. You little gauleiter-in-waiting...

"The rules exist to deal with pissed-up booze sheds in town where kids drink until they're sick and/or fighting."

Yes, well, there's the problem in instituting rules to resolve something that's already a crime because you are too lazy and/or stupid to enforce the laws you already have.

You wind up with those laws being used indescriminately by the kind of brain-in-neutral, lowest common denominator council wallah because making a judgement is hard, and easier to just slap down a bit of paper and let some other council wallag deal with the fallout.

JuliaM said...

"Finally, perhaps also note that the subset of Yanks who read extreme-right magazines are hardly our core admirers at the best of times: 1776 and all that..."

Who cares what they believe 23/7 - on this subject, they're right.

But then I'm dealing with never-met-a-rule-I-didn't-secretly-admire, 'oh please big State, take me roughly' JohnB here. Not a person who values his freedom.

Dick Puddlecote said...

'You couldn't make it up' that anyone would believe it reasonable for a landlord to have to apply for a dominoes-watching licence. Or that such a licence should be required in the first place.

But there John B is. Fact is truly stranger than fiction.

_Felix said...

My proper reaction to your disco, John B, if it doesn't quantifiably harm me, would be to move away, and, provided you don't follow me around the country with it, I have no reasonable complaint against you. If it keeps me awake all night (and if we're sure that counts as your problem rather than mine), then I could sue you for the damage caused. If emitting drunks counts as similar actual harm to emitting loud noises, then I could sue you for that, too, but it's getting very tenuous, and some debating in court would be needed to establish whether I was actually harmed or just being snotty.

If I was a nicer person I could have a word or two with you about it before suing, in case we could come to an arrangement, like getting the bouncers to herd the drunks straight into taxis or something. Perhaps it would be a good idea for both of us. Petty regulations sabotage the search for good ideas.

We could, as I say, have a central authority to decide all these matters in advance, for all cases, based on things that are thought to be probably harmful and that might happen but haven't happened yet, and that would be a great way to prevent further thought about them and remove all flexibility and joy from society, and it would be discriminatory.

Charles Babbage famously tried to get parliament to ban street musicians, because other people's music put him off his deep and important thoughts. Much though I sympathise with his annoyance, I think the reaction of the general public (which was something along the lines of following him about with choirs of out-of-tune recorders and hiring buskers to play outside his house) was quite correct. I suppose Babbage ultimately won, since in most towns you have to get a license now to busk, and it does seem a fair assumption that inventing computers is more important than playing a barrel organ, but the country shouldn't work this way. No meritocracy, no bans on vague unwholesomeness in favour of goody-goodies. (Amusingly, Babbage's great gift to the world is now widely used to create, download and play pop music. Serves him right.)

_Felix said...

"as I say" - heh, that referred to a paragraph I edited out. I had also said "all human life is annoying", and then I suggested a licensing scheme for having opinions on the internet.

It's all about actual harm, anyway. Really, it's about rationality and the creation of knowledge, which is interfered with by arbitrary and discriminatory laws.

The Filthy Smoker said...

@ John B:

"the majority of things filed under "You Couldn't Make It Up" turn out to, in fact, have been made up, or heinously exaggerated (the 'jigging pensioner' piece was before the Licensing Act.)"It's not made up though, is it? All that says is that my explanation for a lot of this bullshit - that the Licensing Act gave local authorities too much power - doesn't explain that particular case. It still happened. It's still gives you an illustration of how these pricks bleed pubs dry and exploit every law until people can no longer make a living.

As far as I can see, all the stories mentioned in the Reason piece were genuine, and if your evidence for implying that most of them were made up is the fact that one of them happened before 2003 then it seems to me that you're clutching at straws.

"all the 'events scuppered by not having right license' stories would have been fine had the landlord applied for the right license, which in the cases listed they would unequivocally have been granted without any problems."And if Thomas More had recanted his Catholicism he would have lived to a ripe old age. So what? Why the fuck fuck fuckity fuck should a pub have to pay a council £1,800 to let people play dominoes? Why should people have to finger-printed before they go into a bar? Who the hell gives the police the right to close down every pub in town just because it's a sunny day?

"Should I be allowed to open a £1-a-shot 24-hour disco next door to your house? If not, any complaints about the licensing system (whose aim is broadly to ensure responsible landlords can run their pubs properly, and irresponsible ones can be stopped) are a load of cant.Right. Because if I agree with licenses to sell alcohol then I have to agree with licenses to play play dominoes, watch TV and listen to music. That would be the reductio ad absurdum argument. Surely you can do better than that.

also note that the subset of Yanks who read extreme-right magazines are hardly our core admirers at the best of timesHmm. Extreme-right? It's certainly a free market, libertarian magazine if that's what you mean. You wouldn't be trying to associate Reason magazine with the "far-right", would you? For the record, Reason's editorial position is that all immigration borders should be abolished, which kind of fucks up the traditional right-left/Hitler-Jesus axis that some people are so keen on perpetuating.

the a&e charge nurse said...

I feel sorry for the dominos team but at least the
disappointed members can still indulge in a reflective smoke at home.

But no so our freedom loving Yanks according to this item.
http://www.theage.com.au/world/californian-smoking-ban-hits-home-20090127-7qxa.html

Perhaps the grass is not always greener?

Henry Crun said...

Not sure I agree with the Yanks not wanting to come here.

If US telly programmes are to be believed the Yoo Ess Ay is a haven for serial killers, religious nutters, conspiracy theorists and their government agencies are twice as authoritarian and paranoid as ours.

That said, I have visited America recently, the people are friendly, customer service in shops and restaurants is far far superior to anything you would find in the UK and by and large I was impressed by the prevailing lifestyle and work ethic.

Anonymous said...

Felix said:"My proper reaction to your disco, John B, if it doesn't quantifiably harm me, would be to move away...." Yes, I'm sure all those teenagers queuing up to buy (and gazumping one another, no doubt) your house would think, great an all-night disco next door.

Alec

RAB said...

Well I wont get into the argy bargy too much here, but suffice it to say-

I was on holiday in Turkey recently(you can smoke wherever you damn well please, pretty much)

When I caught an item on Sky, about a landlady of a pub in Barnsley who had found a way round the smoking ban.

She had designated her bar

A Smoking Research Area.

All you have to do do to have a pint and light up is to fill in a fatuous questionaire.Takes all of two minutes and is completely within the rules of the badly drafted legislation. I.E. they cant touch you for it!

But I have heard not a word about it since.

Anyone else Has?

Frank Davis said...

But I have heard not a word about it since.

Anyone else Has?
Yes.It didn't last long.

But it wasn't the Nazi local authority that brought the experiment to an end, but the owners of the pub chain. Punch Taverns, I think. Some bunch of cunts, anyway. Kerry Fenton said she'd have carried on but for that.

Several other pubs did the same. I don't know what happened to them.

Good to know that the news went all round the world, though. I hope it resulted in lots of cancelled holidays to Gulag Britain.

God I hate this country too!

Borderpoint said...

"British pubs are being systematically destroyed by jumped up little Hitlers." It isn't just the pubs ... I used to think that devolving power to local authorities was a good idea. OK, I'm blushing ... so what? We all make mistakes.

the a&e charge nurse said...

Hee he, Borderpoint, your humerous item actually highlights a serious problem.

Many people dislike central government because it is too remote, unresponsive and clunky.

And as you have already suggested local government is over populated with petty beaurocrats or irritating personalities.

But I find the thought of devolving power directly to citizens even more terrifying - for starters how many of us read rags like the Mail or Sun (in a non-ironic way) or watch a soap about a dreary Mancunian street for 50 years?

Hell, when we are not too busy eating ourselves to death we are shoving a glass into somebody's face because this constitutes the most sophisticated level of conflict resolution we have attained.

What a nightmare scenario - or put another way, the great British public, worse than councillors?

ElGrebo said...

Gaming is defined as the playing of a game of chance for money or money’s worth. A “game of chance” includes games of chance and skill.
Since 1970 the Licensing Justices have had jurisdiction over gaming on licensed premises. Games of skill that are allowed on licensed premises are billiards, skittles, darts and shove a’ penny. Permissible games of chance are Dominoes and Cribbage; these may be played for reasonable stakes meaning very small amounts.

I don't see how Dominoes could be 'banned' by any authority without altering the existing licensing act?

Letters From A Tory said...

Dominoes a live sport?! Is playing cards going to be banned as well?

no longer anonymous said...

"Specific question: should I be allowed to open a £1-a-shot 24-hour disco next door to your house?"

Depends if there are any restrictive covenants. It might be that when you moved into the property you had to sign an agreement confirming you wouldn't use the premises for certain purposes.

Wossat? said...

Our local pubs are in financial straits because of the smoking ban but I've never encountered any of the stuff in the linked article. We enjoy TV, live music and juke box music also competitive inter-pub games such as dominos, pool and darts (with an audience). Spontaneous or organised dancing is not punished or threatened with hefty fines.

The article sounds like the pub version of AGW scaremongering to me.

Wossat? said...

PS If anyone asked for my personal details and fingerprints before I could gain access to licenced premises I would tell them to fuck off. My money would be better spent relaxing in a more congenial, less fascist pub. It's not like there's a shortage of friendly pubs.

FlipC said...

Has anyone looked at what PRS for Music covers?

Do you have a radio playing at your workplace? You need a licence.

A TV showing broadcast programmes? Requires both a TV licence and a music licence as it might play their members' copyrighted material.

Does a co-worker listen to music without using ear-phones? Music licence required.

Do you have a home office and your spouse is playing the radio loud enough to be heard by any visitors or co-workers? Licence required.

The letter we got after declaring no music being played stated "Please be advised that PRS for Music do from time to time visit premises in order to assess what, if any, licensing requirements there may be" How nice.

Rob said...

"all the 'events scuppered by not having right license' stories would have been fine had the landlord applied for the right license, which in the cases listed they would unequivocally have been granted without any problems)"

Ah, of course. It is pefectly reasonable that someone should apply for a government license at £1800 a shot so that the old fellas can quietly play dominoes.

Or that a pub should have to apply for a license, again at an exorbitant fee no doubt, so that a person can read aloud "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" in an East Anglian pub.

You think this is fine. I, and I daresay most normal people, think it is completely outrageous.

This is not only the arbitrary and excessive abuse of authority, but a legalised hustle as well. What next, John? A license to listen to your stereo at home? God forbid, even a license to watch television?

Rob said...

Oh, and BTW I know of one landlord who has had a similar dispute with the local authority, but not for quite so ludicrous a cause; he was obliquely told that if he caused trouble over it then there might be problems with his pub license, no what I mean?

The only stories which make it into the public eye are from those landlords with the balls to risk their license.

When people have great or absolute authority over you, it will always be abused. ALWAYS. Why are we condemned to have to learn the same lessons over and over again?

Rob said...

should be "know what I mean", of course

John B said...

Ah, of course. It is pefectly reasonable that someone should apply for a government license at £1800 a shot so that the old fellas can quietly play dominoes.

The £1800 fee is bollocks.

You need a license for your pub. At the time you get the license for your pub, you say whether you want it to be an entertainment license.

This encompasses:
1) live music
2) playing recorded music (except when incidental to other activities)
3) dance performance
4) indoor sports (with pub games excluded unless played for the entertainment of an audience)
5) showing films
6) other similar entertainment

[note point 2: this highlights that the Staffordshire landlady is referring to a PRS license, which is nothing to do with LA2003, only covers copyright, and is purely financial]

The council decides whether or not to approve your entertainment license. Normally, it will approve it. Sometimes it won't, if the council feels that there'd be a negative impact on nearby residents. If approved, it doesn't cost any more than having a normal license.

Yes, obviously the edge cases are silly and some codgers playing dominos don't pose the same issues for neighbours as a pub that stages championship boxing matches. Which is why the domino pub would have had no problems at all if it had put in, at no extra cost, for an entertainments license *if it wanted to stage domino events for an audience* (since the law specifically states that events not for the entertainment of an audience are excluded).

Ah, what's the use? The Reason piece is a load of ludicrously overinflated toss, if a landlord isn't a halfwit then they can do what they want at no extra cost than pre-2003 *and* they don't have to shut at silly o'clock, and the LA2003 doesn't add any restrictions that weren't previously covered by alcohol and entertainments licenses. You don't need an entz license for old men to play dominos, unless you market it as a spectator sport, in which case you need to check with the council that it's OK for you to market your pub as a venue for spectator sporting events.

But feel free to Littlejohn on as much as you like...

John B said...

What next, John? A license to listen to your stereo at home?

No, that isn't the point at all.

Parliament decreed, during the 19th century that you need a license to sell alcohol.

*If and only if* you decide to take advantage of this and subsequent legislation to acquire such a license, there are certain other conditions that both you and your premises must meet (e.g. you need to not be a criminal or a drunk).

Another such condition is that - because of the differing impact on neighbours of being an old-mannish CAMRA-loving shop versus a superclub - certain activities that might create different demands on your neighbours are regulated. Again, this has always been the case, isn't affected by LA2003, and doesn't represent any kind of thin-end-of-wedge for people who don't want to acquire licenses to sell alcohol.

(the smoking ban is different... indeed, had it only applied to pubs, which are already subject to detailed licensing restrictions, it would be far less illiberal than its blanket application to all public places where activities were previously largely unregulated)

FlipC said...

@JohnB - Just a minor nitpick. "the law specifically states that events not for the entertainment of an audience are excluded"

No it just defines entertainment as being that which takes place in front of an audience for the purposes of entertaining said audience. Same destination, different route.

Mark M said...

@John B

The licenses aren't there "to ensure responsible landlords can run their pubs properly". They are there to make some money and keep a few government bureaucrats in a job.

If there were there simply to limit alcohol sales to licensed premises then they would be free to apply for. The decision would be a quick aye or nay based on whether its a pub or your £1-a-shot 24hr disco.

And you say "The rules exist to deal with pissed-up booze sheds in town where kids drink until they're sick and/or fighting" but do they actually deal with them? No, because we still have pissed-up booze sheds with people coming out vomitting and fighting.

You don't solve a problem by making more rules. You start by making sure the existing ones are enforced. Unfortunately, we can't enforce the rules because all the coppers are out checking up whether small pubs have got a license to play dominoes.

John B said...

The cost of licenses covers the costs of administration. The point is, someone needs to determine whether it's a pub or a £1-a-shot 24-hour disco.

& the stuff about police is simply rubbish. There is a massive inner-city late-night police presence, in every medium-to-large city I've been in the UK; I've never even seen a copper checking out the nice-ish inner-suburban establishments I tend to frequent now I'm no longer a callow yoof living in a sh!thole...

John B said...

(no idea why I bowdlerised the post above, sorry Devil you cunt)

double six said...

"The cost of licenses covers the costs of administration" says John B.

Hmm... Sounds a bit like "It is illegal to throw stones at this sign."

Maybe no admin fees would be needed if there was no admin required, you think?

Budgie said...

John B epitomises the circular self justification for more and more rules. Every rule, according to John B, is there to protect you and me and succeeds (for he has put no countervailing case).

Yet he fails to see that probably most rules have unintended consequences. So not only do most rules fail properly to protect the very people John B claims they are for, but they actually harm previously innocent activities.

This propensity to believe that a rule's intention is what it actually accomplishes, and that there are no deleterious side effects, is the mindset that grips the socialist mentality.

Bill Sticker said...

JohnB,

The 'Government should do something'?

Well they have, and the results are all around you.

John B said...

"the results are" that if you want to go for a nice pint and play some dominoes, you can; and if you want to walk through town without being pummelled to death by drunkards, you can.

An added bonus is that tedious blowhards with no understanding of the licensing system, or the economics of running pubs, can rant on and on about Evil Guvment and Meddling Bureaucrats, thereby preventing them from getting up to more serious mischief.

JuliaM said...

""the results are" that if you want to go for a nice pint and play some dominoes, you can; and if you want to walk through town without being pummelled to death by drunkards, you can."

Oh, really?

Oh, really?

Oh, really?

That took me five minutes. But yeah, the streets are safe, aren't they...

Lola said...

DK - 'God I hate this country'. Would it be more accurate to say that you hate what's been done to this country?

Verity said...

John B - I didn't bother to read all your voluble posts ... just the first one. Well, skipped it, actually, because of the poor quality of your writing.

You seem to be ghastly.

Get many girlfriends, do you, Mr Obsessive?

So many posts, so many words, so much obsession ... be a love and go and lie down. A really heavy whisky would serve you well. In fact, four or five ounces on ice and skip the soda. Then you could have a little rest.

And so could we.

John B said...

@ JM, your first link is to some mad buggers who decided to have a knife fight club with each other. Banging them up is fair enough, but bystanders were never threatened (and the cops sorted it immediately).

@ Verity, the people who pay me rather well because they believe in the quality of my writing would disagree, and I tend to side with them. And I tend to find more than one girlfriend at a time is a bit excessive, so I'll have to disappoint you there.

Platypus5 said...

Believe me. Us Americans (At least the educated ones) are just as worried about our OWN self image. Forget laughing at the UK's problems! Us people from the United States had to deal with the shame of having BUSH as our leader. In fact, many of us pretended to be CANADIAN when we traveled abroad.