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Why we drink

June 2, 2009

We had an interesting discussion at a seminar here yesterday about why we have a problem with alcohol in this country.  Unlike some behaviour change policy – like stopping smoking or drink driving – booze in small doses can be beneficial and is an inescapable part of how we celebrate special occasions.  But we still drink way too much, and carry the cost for cleaning up the mess afterwards.

After a debate about what we can do to push moderation, we came to the realisation that what we are really missing is somewhere cheap for people to sit and talk to their friends.  Other than a pub.  Where else in this country can you sit at night for several hours for the price of one pint? 

Is the market ever going to provide places just to sit?  Seems like a guaranteed money loser (like, you could argue, many country pubs).  We grumble that our children spend too much time indoors, online, getting depressed.  But where should they be going?  Should we be rethinking the essential human need to just sit with a mate and have a natter?  Not that now is the time to talk of spending money, but if there is one thing public services are good at, it is having empty space sitting around.  But councillors who have tried to get underused space working for communities can tell you what a hair-tearing nightmare they’ve faced. 

Maybe we should stop despairing that we are drinking too much.  Make it possible to create a pleasant space with comfy seats, a loo,  some quiet music and a drinks machine, and then see what happens next…

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