JD Wetherspoon’s Latest Moneyspinner

The decision by a Buckinghamshire local council to approve the application by the Wetherspoon’s pub chain to open the UK’s first motorway pub is reflective of the current government’s attitude towards alcohol and its associated revenues.

One word sprang to my mind immediately upon reading this story from the BBC on Twitter the other night – hypocrisy. Oh yes, also ‘money’ and ‘stupid.’

People who like to drink can buy booze at low cost from supermarkets and off licences, in the bars and pubs in our cities and rural villages, in restaurants and at the theatre. They can drink at home or in the park, at the seaside, in the countryside, on their lunch hour during the working week and any hour they wish in the evenings and at the weekends.

Pretty much the only place that has been untouched by the sweeping and influential hands of the drinks industry giants is the service stations on our motorways. And with good reason. Drinking and driving is a terrible idea.

A spokesman from Wetherspoon’s has spoken with much reassurance of the imminent pub opening on the M40, stating ‘We don’t see any problem.’ Also that the staff on duty will not be asking patrons of the pub whether or not they will be drinking and driving as ‘It’s up to them.’ Great.

The government’s strategy on alcohol (see below) which is currently under review includes the following statement;

We want to overhaul alcohol licensing to address:

  • rebalancing the Licensing Act 2003 in favour of local communities
  • crime and disorder caused by alcohol
  • health and social harms

I would suggest that all three of these worthwhile issues are negated by opening a pub at a motorway services location.

If, as JD Wetherspoon’s would have us believe, the only people who will be frequenting this motorway drinking hole and actually consuming alcohol therein are members of coach parties or those travelling with others – essentially people who are not getting behind the wheel after they’ve sunk a few bevvies – then we have nothing to fear.

I rather suspect though, as someone who had an alcohol dependency for twenty years and who understands how the brain reacts to alcohol cues, that many travellers who pull into the pub off the motorway in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, will ‘enjoy’ drinking alcohol as a stress reliever or a little pick-me-up and who might also have alcohol dependencies, emotional, physical or mental, or perhaps all three. And that such people will react to the cue of seeing a welcoming pub after a tough drive on the motorway.

Why, in a country which is already rife with opportunity to drink alcohol, is it deemed appropriate to position a pub – even if it is a pub which also sells food – on a motorway? A premises which sells alcohol from 8am onwards will inevitably serve up booze at some point or other to someone who is alcohol-dependent and who, after drinking more than the legal limit, will return to their car, drive back onto the motorway and set off at speeds of 70 mph plus.

Now where is the sense in that? Oh yes – money.


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