When I started seeing references to Sam Smith’s latest edict on Twitter, I thought it was some sort of a wind up. We’ve had ‘No Swearing Gentlemen Please’ signs in the lounge side of my own Sam’s local for a while. Something I respect. Industrial clothing and language should always remain strictly within the tap room, in my opinion.
I started to realise this wasn’t a wind up when images of the ‘No Swearing Policy’ notices started appearing from people I knew and respected elsewhere, generating a flurry of blog posts and reports on the subject. So, what do I think?
Well, if it were my idea, in my pubs, I wouldn’t be relying on a blu tacked, drawing pinned, sellotaped bunting of photostatted and home printed notices to get the message across. Surely a significant independent player can afford the printing costs for some quality notices, frame them and affix them in strategic places; by Order of the Brewery. The feeling of a bit of authority and non negotiable brewery policy underpinning everything and providing the managers with an bit of official clout? As one local wag pronounced: if they can’t be bothered to put up some proper (insert expletive of choice) notices then I can’t be bothered to stop (insert expletive of choice) swearing!
Do I agree with it? Before I answer that I need to know whether the pub has a tap room or not. My idea of a tap room is a place for all people, a no nonsense, have a bit of a laugh, join in the banter or sit quietly, pop in after work in your muck, industrial language permitted (within reason; not loud, wanton, aggressive or intimidating), pool table, darts (other pub games are allowed), and if you must have one a TV (for sport and events of national importance only; turned off at all other times).
Taking the argument a stage further; if the pub has a tap room then I’m okay with swearing in moderation. I’m as guilty as anyone. In all other areas of a pub then there is absolutely no need for swearing at all. End of discussion here, and I’m fully behind Sam’s on this. I just don’t get the blanket ban across the entire estate, in all rooms. I don’t want to get judgemental, and it takes all types, but trying to enforce a swearing ban in somewhere like the very busy General Elliot or The Duncan in Leeds city centre would be like trying to plait snot. I quite liked the CAMRA stance, reported on in The Morning Advertiser , ‘Pubs should be encouraging good behaviour rather than opting for complete bans on those who swear’. I might go a bit further here myself and say, ensuring good behaviour.
I’ve run this through a few times in my own mind, and I don’t think the reasoning behind it will ever be made explicitly clear. On a couple of occasions I’ve tried to elicit comment from the Old Brewery. The press and media person is never at their desk and I think the number they give you to ring back on is just a telephone that rings out in an otherwise empty back room. The Morning Advertiser record that they met a similar fate when trying to elicit a response.
The more I thought about it, the more I kept going back to the debate around the Café bar Vs the British pub. Apologies for returning to my local village Boston Spa, but Sam’s have. If you read It’s a Sam’s pub Jim, but not as you know it it’s clear the brewery have noticed that in this well heeled village, where two traditional boozers have long since closed, a flurry of Café bars are thriving, then you need to provide something different to what you always have done. To my mind a definite fraction has evolved now between people who will go in a traditional boozer and people who won’t. You can turn this on it’s head as well. Equally there are plenty who will never go into a trendy Café bar and pay over £4 a pint, and who are ecstatically happy in a traditional boozer. Question is, in which establishments would you expect to hear the foul language? Having said that, I must point out that there are many, many traditional pubs where the atmosphere and the behaviour of staff and customers is exemplary, and long may that remain. I think you know which sort of pubs I’m thinking of.
I could be well off the mark here. But, I reckon Samuel Smith’s are looking to gentrify their estate and entice a slightly different clientele into their pubs. I guess only time will tell. Is the swearing ban the logical way to go? Will it work? Probably not in the two Leeds pubs I mentioned earlier.
This is definitely one to watch with interest. I suspect, like me, there may be others out there who are hearing all sorts of things coming out of Tadcaster at the minute and wondering if there may be a changing of the guard going on at Yorkshire’s oldest brewery? Only thing is, in Sam’s inimitable style, the new guard might be coming out with their caps on back to front and their rifles pointing the wrong way?