Is this the ‘McDonaldisation’ of booze retail?  Photo: The MirrorAlcohol tax is increasing and inflation and VAT rising. The mass unemployment movement that the government is advancing has firmly taken hold. It’s no surprise that this is enough to send a nation to the bottle in an effort to black out the wretchedness.

Yet pubs are closing down as though they were merely a passing fad, and people are drinking less and less. That’s right. We’re drinking less.

In 2009, according to the British Beer and Pub Association, alcohol consumption fell by 6 percent, the fourth drop in five years, and the steepest year-on-year decline since 1948.

At the same time though, we are incessantly bombarded by tabloid stories that portray a nation on the brink of collapse. The Daily Express reports that the ‘drunk generation’ of today sees a third of 15-year-olds drinking until they pass out, while The Daily Mail screams ‘vodka epidemic’.

With tabloid scaremongering always abound, we know that there is some truth in the booziness of young people. We’ve all seen inebriated girls in high heels get knocked down by cars, and people breaking their noses from the force of tequila slammers. However this is all happening at a time when Britain is drinking less than the EU average.

The tax on our most popular alcoholic drink, beer, is ten times higher than in Germany. Casual sippers are no longer supping because pub prices are forced so far up. This gives a fairly remarkable picture of contemporary attitudes to drinking.

No longer are people indulging daily in a bit of ale or gin on the way home from work, but people now seem to save their drinking for one big Bacchanalian binge every couple of weeks. This means that instead of a merry chat in the pub for an hour or two a day, people are now drinking as much as they can in the free hours they’ve allotted themselves at the weekend.

This sporadic heavy drinking in place of low-level regular drinking, combined with soaring alcohol prices is re-shaping our culture and society. Quiet drinks in the pub are out and mass ‘vertical’ binging in high-speed bars is in. This is the ‘McDonaldisation’ of booze retail. Perhaps alco-pops should come with a ‘happy meal’ type toy to reflect their insalubriousness.

I’m a pub lover, and a bar loather, and it saddens me to think that in a few years time stretching out beside a log fire in a pub will become amusing in its antiquity.

Bearing this in mind, I am advocating a return to carefree, daily, heavy drinking in pubs with friends. If you can’t afford it, get a loan. You’ll have died from cirrhosis before you have to pay it back. Let us live up to our ‘drunk generation’ title with pride.

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The Badger

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