Will a prohibition on standing and drinking in pubs reduce the incidence of barroom brawls?
Police and health officials in Lancashire, England want to enforce a no-standing policy designed to preempt violent outbursts by preventing potential combatants from drinking while vertical.
In an op-ed piece in The New York Times, Jack Turner, author of Spice: The History of a Temptation, questions the logic behind the initiative, citing a string of historical failures at
controlling eating and drinking: Boredom with Lenten dietary restrictions begat an indulgence in expensive, exotic ingredients and spices; the ideal of the communal “civic meal,” born in the French Revolution, was erased by the advent of restaurants, and so on.
My favorite example in Turner’s article has to be that of temperance movements in Australia and New Zealand which required that bars close
at 6 p.m. to encourage men to spend their evenings with their families rather than getting drunk. The result was that imbibing only accelerated, with drinkers cramming their drinking into “60 liquid minutes” (some pubs even “fitted a spigot on a hose to fill drinkers’ glasses as soon as they emptied”).
So what’s Turner’s solution for worried officials in Lancashire?
“The answer, I think, is known to anyone who has visited the tourist spots of Paris or Rome. Many a footsore traveler has retreated to a
cafe only to find, when the check arrives, that a coffee costs double when seated. In Lancashire maybe they should do the same but they
should, so to speak, turn the tables. Charge more to stand, and they’ll be falling over themselves to sit down.”