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To tie in with Dry January, the Morning Advertiser reports that one in four pub visits no longer involve consuming an alcoholic drink. My first thought is to wonder how many of these are connected with eating. My guess would be that the proportion on non-dining occasions is much smaller.
It’s also of limited usefulness taken in isolation. How does it compare with previous years? Does it represent a marked change, or is it little different? It could, of course, be the case that as the amount of drinking in pubs decreases, the proportion of dining occasions rises, and with it the percentage of non-drinking visits, even without much change in individual behaviour when in the pub. It could simply be a reflection of the growing role of food in pubs.
It’s certainly true, as I have observed before, that adults in groups of diners in pubs are now much more likely to be having a non-alcoholic drink than they were twenty or thirty years. But it doesn’t follow that hordes of people have suddenly started jugging back non-alcoholic beers on non-dining pub visits.
And, if they are, there must come a point where they start to wonder what they’re doing there at all. If one person decides to hang on the coat-tails of a group of drinkers and enjoy an evening in the pub while avoiding alcohol, that’s understandable. But, once the non-drinkers become a majority, they might one day ask “Paula, you’re now the only one of us who’s actually drinking alcohol. Wouldn’t it be better if we all did something else?”