Editor, The Publican
Press day. And also my first day back in the office in about a week and a half following a somewhat hectic round of judging for our forthcoming awards. In my absence my deputy editor Dan Pearce has been holding the fort more than capably and I find the proofs for pages one, two and three for our next edition ready and waiting on my desk when I walk in.
The front page this week is based around some new Home Office stats that show there has been a drop in crime since the new licensing system was brought in on 24 November.
This is good news for the pub trade, which has been fighting against some very negative media coverage in the last year, much of it misleading and extremely damaging. Pubs were never really out of the headlines in 2005 and shouldered the blame for the ills of the world, thanks to the efforts of the Daily Mail, among others.
Claims abounded that pubs had forced through licensing reform, were set to make millions from its introduction and were the root cause of all late-night violent crime. But the new stats support the trade stance that relaxing opening hours discourages the 11pm binge. Here’s hoping the revolution starts here.
Anyway, the proofing is done and the pages are away.
Lunchtime is spent catching up with paperwork and sorting through my emails. Hundreds of them. Finally, I prepare my notes for tomorrow’s panel judging session for our Regional Brewer of the Year category, for which I am the panel chair.
Then I head over to the local pub to say hello to the judges who have been involved in the panel sessions for some of the other categories, which are run today.
Leave the house far too early (I am definitely not a morning person) and am at my desk for 7.30am to gather my thoughts for the judging. I have been out to visit all six brewers in the final — Fuller’s, Thwaites, St Austell, Hook Norton, Brains and Hardys & Hansons — and also ‘mystery visited’ some of their pubs. Now each company has been invited to send its top guys along to a panel interview, which lasts 35 minutes for each finalist and is, I have to say, pretty tough, not just for the finalists but for the panel too.
I get the lift to the ninth floor holding room where my fivestrong panel — made up of key figures from across the industry within trade associations, suppliers, our sponsors and analysts from the City — is starting to arrive. With the exception of an hour for lunch, the whole process takes us from 8.30am until 6pm that evening, by which time we have met all the finalists and agreed on a winner. The company in question, of course, won’t find out until the big day on 21 March.
I take my panel for a well-deserved beer and then go home to sleep like the dead. While everyone else in London seems to be cranking things up for a big weekend I am, tragically, in bed by 10pm!
I finish off most of the profile pieces I am writing on each of the finalists in my awards category and check the Saturday papers for any news on licensing or smoking (force of habit).
I email over the profile pieces, check the Sunday papers and glance at our website, www.thepublican.com, to see that the weekly newspaper round-up is online.
Mondays are our issue meeting days, so most of the team are in for once. We go through the latest issue, exchange ideas for the next one and compare diaries. It’s going to be another hectic week — the smoking issue is coming to a head. We have been covering the debate over banning smoking in pubs for some years and many of our readers are likely to be hit.
However, the proposal on the table also includes plans to exclude private members’ clubs — a move that could see most of them lose their customer base to the working men’s club down the road. So the pub trade sits between a rock and a hard place. The decision is due tomorrow evening and we are to devote the first three pages of the next issue to reaction and analysis as well as ensuring the vote result is on our website within minutes.
Valentine’s Day — and no cards… again! I commiserate with my flatmate who is also cardless. There’s always next year.
I spend the morning wading through some strategy review documents for the editorial team and am relieved when the time comes to head across the Thames to the Savoy for the launch of the Grand National 2006 — sponsored by beer brand John Smith’s. The racing community is out in all its finery. Sitting next to me is the deputy sports editor of the Sunday Mirror who knows far more than me about the race and talks me through the detail — while I fill him in on John Smith’s and the latest on smoking in pubs. Back to the office and I have a message to call BBC London to arrange an interview on smoking for the next morning once the result of the vote is known. I am booked in for 8.30am and I head home to watch coverage of the vote. A full ban, starting in the summer of 2007. Not really a surprise — but it won’t be welcomed by many in the trade.
It’s my birthday! I am 32.
My interview keeps being put back until mid-morning and eventually Vanessa Feltz interviews me live during her slot at 10.15am. Lunch is a catch-up with Bedford brewer Charles Wells and the afternoon is spent proofing pages, fielding calls on smoking and then writing up my leader column for the week on the subject of — you guessed it — smoking. It’s a plea, really, for small marginal community locals to be given the support they need to adapt to a full ban. It is these small businesses that cannot weather the short-term losses and may well go under. Then, pages over and signed off, I retire home for a few birthday beers with friends at my local pub.