Tuesday 16 March 2010

Dutch Courage

I'm baa-aack!

Conference was illuminating, whilst the company and hospitality before and after, in Amsterdam and The Hague, was a genuine delight.

There is a smoking ban in Holland but, being freedom-loving continental Europeans and not anally-retentive British pussies, choice is offered in spades. It wasn't very difficult to seek out bars which didn't throw you outside to smoke while you enjoyed their beer.

I also noted that there weren't any boarded up ones, either. It appears to be an alien phenomenon to the Dutch.

As our host at last night's hot and pricey Indian restaurant brought out the post-meal ashtrays, I became thoughtful and intrigued as to why this huge difference in fortunes between the Dutch and British hospitality industries exists.

After all, Labour do tell us that the recession was global.

The tough international economic conditions will not leave the Netherlands unscathed. The Dutch economy may have grown by 2% year-on-year in 2008, but the economy was already shrinking in the last three quarters, from a quarter on quarter perspective. In the fourth quarter in particular, economic activity declined drastically. This development will continue to an even stronger degree throughout the first half of 2009. After that the economy will very gradually pick up again, but on balance the Dutch economy will shrink both this year and next. This year the negative growth will reach 3½%, the largest contraction since 1931.
Surely that would have had an effect on Dutch bar owners, considering the price of a pint in The Hague and Amsterdam these past couple of days was between €5 and €6 (£4.50 to £5.50 [conv]). OK, that was in the cities, but the mean price of a beer in other areas is €4 (£3.60), which is on a par with or, in some cases in excess of, prices in Central London.

But bars don't close over there. Why ever not?

Perhaps they haven't got the same evil supermarket companies as we have, eh? Yes. That'll be it.

The Dutch foundation for alcohol prevention, STAP, wants Dutch supermarkets to stop selling crates of beer at bargain prices. The foundation is concerned that the low prices encourage excessive drinking, especially at a time of year when young people are celebrating their exam results.

STAP is calling for a minimum price for beer and wants the market leader to withdraw its product from the supermarkets that choose to sell the beer at excessively low prices.

A crate of Heineken beer contains 24 bottles and normally costs between 11 and 12 euros at Albert Heijn which means one bottle costs about 50 eurocents, with discount only 29 eurocents. In bars in The Netherlands, where the legal drinking age is 16, a glass of beer in a bar costs about two euros, four times as much as in the supermarkets.
Hmm. Perhaps not.

Well, it surely must be those evil pubcos then. It can't be anything else, can it? They may have been around since the Beer Orders (1989) effectively created them, but pubs have been closing for years, I'm constantly told.

UK Pub Closures 2004-2009
Or ...
2004: 478
2005: 102
2006: 216
2007: 1,409
2008: 1,973
2009: 2,365
Oh yeah. So they were! Apart from the 25% increase in pub stocks between 1971 and 2003, of course**.

I'm not sure the pubco tie effect can fully explain the massive leap in closures from 2007 onwards, though.

Why the huge pub failures in the UK but not in Holland? Why are theirs ticking along nicely and ours aren't? What on earth could be the over-riding factor?

As I drank a cool Heineken in the smoking room at Murphy's Bar, situated between gates D15 & D16 inside Amsterdam Schipol airport, I still hadn't worked it out.

Perhaps Gillian Merron may have a decent explanation.

**All sources: BBPA Statistical Handbooks, not available online.


Leg-iron said...

Why aren't their pubs failing like ours? Oh, I'm sure I had the answer but it's just slipped my mind. I can't quite get a hold of it.

It's on the tip of my... cigarette.

Anonymous said...

Is the answer the smoking ban ??

No of course it isn't as we are told that the people in the U.K have 'got used to it'

I am replying on behalf of David Cameron. David actually voted against the smoking ban but we have no plans to reverse the legislation now it has been implemented.

Nicola Sheldon

David Cameron's Correspondence Unit


Anonymous said...

Dick, I rarely bark orders at people, but email a link to this post to Merron, NOW!!!

subrosa said...

Gawd Dick, I thought for a moment there your adventures had turned you into a sheep!

What a super post though, well done you. And obviously you weren't frozen to death standing out in the global warming of the Netherlands.

Mark Wadsworth said...

F*** me their beer is expensive though. I'd almost rather be outside shivering at prices like that.

Mark Wadsworth said...

... almost, but not quite :)

John Pickworth said...

"As I drank a cool Heineken in the smoking room at Murphy's Bar, situated between gates D15 & D16 inside Amsterdam Schipol airport, I still hadn't worked it out."

Mmmmmm my favourite place... especially after a long haul flight. Best of all, they don't even force you to buy a coffee or a beer. So civilised.

If you want a laugh though, try squeezing into the airport's glass cubical for a fag along with the moaning Yanks... "My god, we thought it was bad in California or New York but they don't make you suffer like this!" they'll cry. Hehehheheheheee

Dick Puddlecote said...

Dave A: No problem, the more see it, the better.

Anon @ 21:56: Someone is on it. ;-)

Subrosa: Sheep? Me? Never. And yes, warm as toast in four separate hostelries in three different Dutch towns.

John: With a real wise-cracking Irish owner/barman too.

Anonymous said...

I remember just after the ban.
I practically got trampled by hordes of non smoking Illeberal puritans who all went out the day after the ban.

Pissed off Smoker said...

OK folks, lets get the ball rolling.

Put this link on Facebook, Twitter,e-mail it, post it,write it on the shithouse wall but most of all



timbone said...

The health freaks in Spain are trying their damndest to get it banned in all bars and restaurants. The Spanish Health Minister, (can't remember her name, but it must be a woman), has said that...wait for it...there is no evidence that banning smoking in places of hospitality effects trade.

QUESTION - Does she not know what smoking bans do to the hospitality trade?

Dick Puddlecote said...

"can't remember her name ..."

Trinidad Jimenez

"... but it must be a woman"

'it' is.