Pressure mounts on Falkirk pubs as more people abstain from drink

More research called for on drinking habits
More research called for on drinking habits

With the start of a new year comes the decision for many to look at their lifestyles and how they can improve themselves.

With the start of a new year comes the decision for many to look at their lifestyles and how they can improve themselves.

While some vow to lose weight, get fit or pick up a new hobby, many will opt to cut back on their drinking.

Some are going one step further and taking part in a ‘Dryuary’ by vowing to abstain from alcohol for the whole of January to raise cash for cancer charities.

And while the health benefits of reducing alcohol consumption are positive, the effect on the already suffering licenced trade industry is huge.

Brian Flynn, owner of Falkirk’s Behind the Wall, agreed the concept could be the final nail in the coffin for some pubs.

He said: “We are lucky that we are a destination venue - people come to us for dinner, to see a band or a night out. They spend the night here and there are great transport links on our doorstep. It’s rural and community pubs that are being hit.

“While I agree people need to be sensible with alcohol, I don’t think things like Dryuary help - everything in moderation is my motto and coming to the pub to socialise is beneficial.”

Over the past decade the pub industry has been hit by the smoking ban, drastically reduced prices for alcohol in supermarkets and a shift in social attitudes.

Robert Heeps has been in the trade for 27 years and owned the Canal Inn in Camelon for 11 of them.

He said in that time the industry has changed to the point it’s almost impossible to make a living from it.

He said: “If someone told me they were considering buying a pub, I would definitely try to change their mind. It’s a lot of work and incredibly difficult to make money, even if you offer something new.

“People have so many bills, with their Sky TV, mobile phone contracts and car payments that at the end of the week they haven’t got the money to go to the pub and getting a cheap bottle of wine or crate of beer for the house becomes the only option.”

While Robert admits alcohol costcutting in supermarkets and the smoking ban have impacted on the business, he thinks it’s the change in attitudes that is hurting most.

He said: “Supermarkets can sell their drinks cheaper than I can buy them from wholesalers, and that is what lots of landlords blame for the decline in the industry, but I think it’s more of a social shift. When I started 27 years ago, people didn’t drink in the house. They came to the pub to socialise, banter, share their problems and hear the news - you can’t buy that in a supermarket.

“While it’s a positive that people are drinking less, it’s a shame the sense of community from a local is dying.”

The new drink drive limit means just one drink can put a motorist over the limit and the Scottish Government is pushing the message that drivers should not drink at all if they are behind the wheel. Robert has just installed a coffee machine at The Canal Inn to provide drivers with another option while Behind the Wall and 1 Princes Street have a range of ‘mocktails’,

Robert added: “Places like golf clubs and country pubs will see a big drop in alcohol sales with the new legislation - people just can’t risk having one drink.

Abstaining can boost health

Cancer charities are cashing in on the health benefits of giving up alcohol with fundraising campaigns.

Cancer Research UK’s Dryathlon asks participants to give up booze for January and get their friends and family to sponsor them if successful.

Macmillan Cancer Support runs a similar scheme with Sober October and both push the health benefits and reduction in cancer risks that comes from being teetotal.

The latest studies show that four in ten cancers could be prevented by making healthier lifestyle choices such as avoiding alcohol, doing regular exercise and eating healthily.

Professor Max Parkin from Queen Mary University of London, whose study formed the basis of these latest figures, said: “There’s now little doubt that certain lifestyle choices can have a big impact on cancer risk, with research around the world all pointing to the same key risk factors.

“Of course everyone enjoys some extra treats during the Christmas holidays so we don’t want to ban mince pies and wine but it’s a good time to think about taking up some healthy habits for 2015.

“Leading a healthy lifestyle can’t guarantee someone won’t get cancer but we can stack the odds in our favour by taking positive steps now that will help decrease our cancer risk in future.”

Last year 55,000 people took part in Cancer Research UK’s Dryathlon and it raised £5.8 million for the charity.

The tongue-in-cheek challenge is in it’s third year and asks participants to pay a £20 ‘Tipple Tax’ if they fall off the wagon.

A spokesperson from the charity said: “You can join the Dryathlon as an individual or as a team.