I’m going to tell you a little story. I’m sure that you’ll find it familiar, more’s the pity.
A few weeks ago, Lady A and I were sitting in a quiet pub. It was an unusual pub, being converted from a former waiting room. In the pub, they served beer from a very local brewer whose beers I had not yet tried. There weren’t many people in the pub, three or four local men at the bar, chatting quietly, a middle-aged couple at a table, a pair of blokes at another table, and us. I was settling in nicely, the oddness of the pub was starting to work for me, I was enjoying the local beers, the atmosphere was friendly and cosy and I was beginning to feel comfortable.
At this point, a man entered the pub from a back door. I didn’t see him at first, but I certainly felt the change in the atmosphere. The middle-aged couple immediately got up and left. The good-natured chatter round the bar froze.
I looked up to try to see what had changed. The man was probably about forty years old and thickset. A single thick eyebrow covered both eyes. His hair was shaved close to his scalp, revealing several bright white scars across his skull. He was lurching slightly as he walked, and when he spoke, in a very loud and aggressive voice, his words were slightly slurred. Clearly, he had tanked up before he came to the pub.
‘Where’s f****** Baldy?’ he said. ‘The f****** bald b****** promised to buy me a f****** pint.’
The barman, a young chap of maybe twenty years answered, somewhat nervously, it must be said, ‘He’s just gone out.’
‘Out?’ growled the thug, ‘He’s f****** gone out when he promised me a f****** pint?’ The barman scuttled into the back room. I’m glad he did, otherwise I reckon he’d have earned himself a punch for his temerity.
Fortunately at this point, Baldy returned. He looked like a professional man, a doctor, maybe, well dressed, understated. He quietly took the thug aside and bought him his pint. Then the whole sorry tale of the thug’s day was revealed, in loud slurry passages filled with obscenities and his vile opinions of just about everybody he knew.
As he was still standing at the bar, I felt no desire to get myself any more beer. I distinctly felt a ‘What are you looking at?’ just waiting to come my way. The two blokes sitting at the other table left their beer glasses on their table and departed. I waited until the thug went out for a cigarette before I returned my empty glasses to the bar. The young barman took my glasses and quietly apologised for ‘him’. We then waited until he came back in before we went out.
It was a quiet night in the pub, but still they lost over half their custom because of one man. Clearly the middle-aged couple were local and knew what to expect, that’s why the vamoosed so quickly. The two blokes and us were not local, but soon got the measure of what was unfolding.
Behind the bar were two young people, a lad aged about twenty and a girl of about the same age. The landlord did not appear to be present.
This, then, is my point. Why should the bar staff have to put up with customers like that? Why should other customers have to put up with customers like that? Why should the business put up with customers like that? The answer’s simple: they shouldn’t. We all know pubs that have ‘problem’ customers. Some are just a bit loud or annoying. Others are more serious. This guy may have been a bit extreme, a conversation with another local in another pub confirmed that the man was well known, and ‘handy with his fists’, and not just with other men. That explained his air of barely repressed rage and violence.
There should be zero tolerance of this sort of behaviour. He frightened the staff, the customers, and cost the pub the profits from several more pints. The landlord was not on hand, but it seems that would not have made any difference. The man was clearly well known, and yet had not previously been barred. A breach of the peace is defined as ‘threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour’. This thug ticked all three boxes. He should have been barred long ago. He should be barred from all the local pubs.
If you have a ‘problem customer’ in your local who just ruins the night simply by walking into the pub, speak to the landlord, and ask for him (or her, let’s not be sexist) to be barred. Let’s reclaim our pubs from the thugs. Zero tolerance.
Words are my copyright, please respect that. All you have to do is ask. Thank you.