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20-04-2017, 17:30
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Publicans find lots of ways to signal who they want to drink in their establishments and, of course, who they don’t.We’ve been pondering this post on and off for months — maybe even years — but the news today that Samuel Smith of Tadcaster has banned swearing across its entire pub estate (https://www.timeout.com/london/blog/goodbye-to-potty-mouthed-pints-swearing-has-been-banned-in-samuel-smiths-pubs-042017) brought it into sharp focus.*This is surely an attempt to nudge the estate in the direction of upmarket, isn’t it? An indirect way of saying*‘no riff raff’.
These kinds of signs and signals are one of the most powerful tools a publican has when it comes to shaping their clientele. For example, we’ve been collecting these lately:
https://i0.wp.com/boakandbailey.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/pub_rules_artillery_arms_plymouth.jpg?resize=650%2 C650 https://i0.wp.com/boakandbailey.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/rules_prince_wales.jpg?resize=650%2C650 https://i0.wp.com/boakandbailey.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/bagonailsrules.jpg?resize=650%2C650 https://i0.wp.com/boakandbailey.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/rules_rat_race.jpg?resize=650%2C650
A set of written rules is in itself a signal: this is a pub run by human beings; it has quirks and character; and bad behaviour, however it is defined, will not be tolerated. But in their detail the rules are a kind of manifesto for each pub — a challenge: ‘This is who we are. If you don’t like it, please go somewhere else.’
About a decade ago, before London had a ton of overt craft beer bars,*there were a handful of (literal) signs that publicans used to attract the attention of desirable (that is, relatively wealthy) customers: Illy Coffee Served Here, free Wi-Fi, This is a No Smoking Pub, Board Games Available. There’s nothing there that’s necessarily tied to any particular social class but still it made a statement about the atmosphere you could expect to find inside.
On the flipside, we sometimes interpret a prominently displayed DRUGS WILL NOT BE TOLERATED ON THESE PREMISES poster as a form of advertising:*‘Gotcha. Say no more.’ [wink] More benignly, some aspects of decor that might be off-putting to the snooty — a bucket of sand full of fag ends, SKY SPORTS SHOWN HERE — may well read as reassuringly down-to-earth to others.
Then there’s the extravagant*display of national symbols. This*is a complicated issue which people have no doubt written entire theses and books about. Frankly, we’re nervous even mentioning it but, in brief, displaying any flag*is always a choice — what is it intended to say, and to whom? And, more to the point, what do people*think it is saying?
Sometimes, even if the message being sent isn’t one that makes you feel welcome, it can still be honest, and oddly helpful. After all, no-one wants to crash a party where they’re not welcome.
Signs and Hints and Signals: No Bloody Swearing! (http://boakandbailey.com/2017/04/signs-hints-signals-no-bloody-swearing/) originally posted at Boak & Bailey's Beer Blog (http://boakandbailey.com)

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