Pubs are underfilling pints of beer

Beer drinkers are being short-changed by up to 25p a pint because landlords don’t fill glasses to the brim.

Too much head? 5% of a pint is the legal limit (Flickr pic by waitscm)

Too much head? 5% of a pint is the legal limit (Flickr pic by waitscm)

Sunday Mirror investigators visited 25 pubs up and down the country and found more than two-thirds were serving under-filled pints of beer. Three pints served ­contained illegally small amounts of drink, with one containing just 92.4 per cent of a pint of lager.

The 1985 Weights and Measures Act says a pint of beer should be exactly a pint – 20 fluid ounces or 568ml. But industry guidelines agree a pint of beer can be 95 per cent liquid and five per cent head. Anything under that could lead to the owner being prosecuted.

The survey, carried out with Trading Standards officers, comes amid reports that struggling landlords are under pressure from pub chains to raise profits by deliberately under-filling glasses.

The Sunday Mirror admits to finding no evidence of bar staff deliberately pouring too little, but pub owners can be prosecuted if they sell pints under 95% full.

Last week the GMB union (Britain’s General Union) said the chains which own many pubs throughout the country were setting unrealistic rents based on a near 100 per return or “yield” from beer in barrels. They said this could be achieved only by serving less beer.

Mirror journalists bought two pints each in chain pubs in Liverpool, Newcastle, Birmingham, London and Cardiff.

At Bar Luga in Newcastle one of the pints (Estrella lager, £3.50) was 7.6% short, leaving drinkers 26p out of pocket.

At Yates’s in Harrow, West ­London, one £2.69 pint of Foster’s was 5.8% short of a full pint, short-changing the customer by 15p.

In Liverpool city centre one pint (Green King IPA, £1.75) at JD Wetherspoon’s The Fall Well was under-filled by 5.5%, or 9p.

At the other end of the scale, all the bars they checked in Birmingham city centre served 100 per cent measures while a £3.10 pint of Amstel lager at JD Wetherspoon’s Moon on the Hill in Harrow was 3 per cent over-filled. Good people of Harrow, start frequenting this pub now!

Oliver Vaulkhird, 40, owner of ­Newcastle’s Bar Luga, said: “We’re not trying to cut corners, pints look better with a head. But if people ask for it to be topped then it’s fine and we’d do that.”

But Ash Shah of Harrow trading standards said: “If you pay for a pint you deserve a pint. If you translated these shortfalls to filling your car with petrol, there would be a public outcry.”

The Campaign for Real Ale’s Jonathan Mail said: “There is a misguided view among some pub bosses that it is acceptable to serve pints that are only 95 per cent full. This is wrong and Camra is calling on the Government to clarify the law so it is clear that a pint five per cent short is not acceptable.”

Mine’s a pint (97% beer, 3% head).

Where do you stand on the issue? Are you bothered by a large head or do you think this is nitpicking in the extreme? Have your say below.


Restaurant defeats Cardiff council over alcohol licence

A restaurant has won a legal battle against Cardiff council allowing it to serve alcohol in a city saturation zone limiting the number of venues selling booze.

The saturation zone aims to stop any new licensed premises on City Road (Flickr pic by Guardian Cardiff)

The saturation zone aims to stop any new licensed premises on City Road (Flickr pic by Guardian Cardiff)

Chinese eatery .CN on City Road, formerly Ding Hua, fought the council through the courts after its alcohol licence application was rejected earlier in 2011.

The restaurant successfully challenged the decision at Cardiff Magistrates’ Court and was granted a licence to sell drink within the City Road saturation zone. The case has emerged as councillors move to introduce two more saturation zones around Greyfriars Road and Churchill Way.

The zones make it harder for new and existing businesses to gain alcohol licences, as any plans trigger an automatic objection from the police.

In June, the restaurant applied for an alcohol licence, but was refused by Cardiff council’s licensing committee. The restaurant took the council to court in October and has successfully challenged the decision.

A Cardiff council spokesman said: “Earlier this year, a premise called Ding Hua – situated at number 228, City Road – submitted an application to Cardiff council’s licensing committee, requesting for an alcohol and entertainment license.

“On June 24, an entertainment license was granted, but the alcohol part of the license was refused following an objection made by South Wales Police as the premise falls within the saturation zone that covers City Road.

“On October 3, Ding Hua won a court appeal against the council’s decision and was given an alcohol licence.”

The council’s saturation zone policy creates an automatic presumption that alcohol licence applications will be refused within a specified area. But a licence can be granted if the applicant shows there will be no detrimental impact on the area.

Applications must demonstrate that granting a licence will not affect the prevention of crime and disorder; public safety; the prevention of public nuisance; or the protection of children from harm.

This ruling goes some way to show Cardiff council is becoming too eager to stop businesses gaining alcohol licences which would greatly improve the prospects of a restaurant.
Read our earlier article about how saturation zones work, what the South Wales Police believe they achieve, and take our poll on whether they are a good idea.

January detox doesn’t work

Giving up alcohol or going on a detox for one month is pointless, especially after the excesses of the festive season, says a liver charity. So stop reading this and grab yourself a new year’s drink, it can’t do any more harm!

The British Liver Trust says drinkers should make a decision to stay off alcohol for a few days every week throughout the whole year rather than a pious and ultimately pointless attempt to stay off the sauce for a month.

Experts agree that a short period of complete abstinence will not improve liver health. A longer-term attitude to alcohol is more desirable, the charity said.

Andrew Langford, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, said: “People think they’re virtuous with their health by embarking on a liver detox each January with the belief that they are cleansing their liver of excess following the festive break.

“A one-hit, one-month attempt to achieve long-term liver health is not the way to approach it. You’re better off making a resolution to take a few days off alcohol a week throughout the entire year than remaining abstinent for January only.”

The thinking behind this approach is that total alcohol intake per person is kept down and the liver is given time to recover each week. Providing the liver has no lasting damage, it can repair itself very quickly, taking as little as 24 hours to go back to normal.

Dr Mark Wright, consultant hepatologist at Southampton General Hospital, said: “Detoxing for just a month in January is medically futile. It can lead to a false sense of security and feeds the idea that you can abuse your liver as much as you like and then sort everything else with a quick fix.

“It makes about as much sense as maxing out your credit cards and overdraft all year, then thinking you can fix it by just eating toast in January. The figures just don’t stack up.”

The science of a hangover

On average we each drink more than a gallon of pure alcohol each year. Worldwide this adds up to 1 trillion pints of beer or 250 billion bottles of red wine or 100 billion bottles of vodka.

Much of the world will be doing their best to add to this total on New Year’s Eve and will be waking up on New Year’s Day with a stinking hangover. But why do we get them?

The simple reason, of course, is drinking too much alcohol. Dehydration is responsible for most of the nastier effects of a hangover. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it speeds the loss of water from the body – causing a parched mouth, headaches and that feeling of continual dizziness. Nausea, vomiting and indigestion can also be caused by alcohol irritating the stomach lining.

The science behind a hangover (Flickr pic by cloumnfive)

The science behind a hangover (Flickr pic by cloumnfive)

The science

90 seconds after you take your first sip the alcohol hits your brain and interferes with your neurotransmitters making you talkative and self confident. By your second drink your inhibitions are really dropping.

Inside your brain a chemical called Vasopressin would normally be sending a signal to your kidneys to tell them how much water to take from your blood. Alcohol switches this chemical off, so your kidneys start channelling most of the water to your bladder. Because of this, for every drink you take you are expelling four times as much in urine. And as many of us have experienced, once you break the seal you are back and forth to the loo all night long.

By the end of the night you are getting tired and emotional and you go home and crash out and sleep terribly. This is because alcohol suppresses the production of Glutamine, one of the body’s natural stimulants. When you stop drinking, production starts up again so you spend the night tossing and turning and not gaining a full refreshing dream sleep.

While you are having your awful sleep, your dehydrated liver has to process all the alcohol toxins you consumed, so it steals water from your brain which shrinks and begins to pull on the membranes attaching it to your skull. This is why you wake up with a pounding head, dry mouth and nausea from the after effects of the toxins.

How to prevent a hangover

Below are a few tips given by Drink Aware on how to stop the morning after becoming a nightmare:

  • Try not to drink on an empty stomach; eat something – preferably carbohydrates – before you start drinking. The food will help slow the body’s absorption of the alcohol.
  • Stick to clear drinks (that don’t contain congeners that can worsen the hangover).
  • Drink plenty of water or soft drinks in between alcoholic drinks.
  • Your body takes about one hour to process each unit of alcohol. Consider stopping drinking well before the end of the evening, so the process can begin.

How to cure a hangover

If you do wake up in the morning and find the four horsemen of the apocalypse are taking part in a show jumping trial inside your head, then try these tips for returning to the world of the living:

  • Drink as much water as you can before hitting the sack and keep more by the bed to slurp if you wake in the night. Continue drinking plenty of water the next day. Also have some fresh juice to give yourself a vitamin boost.
  • If you really need it, take a painkiller – a soluble one is good for a headache and gentle on the stomach.
  • Take an antacid to settle your stomach.
  • Try a rehydration treatment sachet – they replace lost minerals and salt.
  • Avoid caffeine (tea or coffee or energy drinks) – these may give you a slight temporary lift, but they may also dehydrate you further.
  • Eat something – bananas and kiwis are a good source of potassium (something you lose with the diuretic effect of alcohol).
  • Go for a gentle stroll if you feel able and get some fresh air and light on the face.
  • Avoid hair of the dog – it only delays the problem. Falling into the habit of attempting to drink off hangovers can be one of the first signs that you are becoming dependent on alcohol.
  • Get plenty of rest and relaxation, take a break from alcohol, and when you do next decide to drink, remember the hangover prevention tips to avoid another painful morning after.

Mine’s a pint (of water).

Cardiff rated most sociable city

Cardiff has emerged as the best place in Britain for a great night out, according to statistics released today. Our fair city eclipsed London and beat off a handful of other rivals to grab the title of Britain’s most sociable city.

Cardiff if the sociable capital of the UK (Flickr pic by shining.darkness)

Cardiff if the sociable capital of the UK (Flickr pic by shining.darkness)

CitySocialising, a socialising network for meeting new people, looked at the social habits of 160,000 UK members throughout 2011.

Cardiff emerged a clear leader in the race to find Britain’s most sociable city, closely followed by Leeds and Newcaastle, with London coming in 6th place.

Apparently, Cardiffians attend 28% more events than the UK average, with those in Leeds coming a close second with 27%.

Glaswegians, famed for liking a drink or two, surprisingly attend 58% fewer social days and nights than the UK average. Nottingham, at 52% below, and Birmingham at 47% below, were among the least sociable of the English cities.

Sanchita Saha, the site’s chief executive and founder, said: “I don’t find the results of our poll too surprising as Cardiff is definitely one of our up-and-coming cities when it comes to being sociable. Through CitySocialising alone we’re hosting around 40 events a month for our members to keep up with demand there. These range from after-work drinks to Sunday lunches and Saturday nights out.”

Below is a full list of the UK’s most, and least, sociable cities:

1. Cardiff 28%

2. Leeds 27%

3. Newcastle 15%

4. Liverpool 13%

5. Bristol 7%

6. London 6%

7. Brighton 5%

8. Manchester 1%

9. Edinburgh -2%

10. Birmingham -47%

11. Nottingham -52%

12. Glasgow -58%

D-day for city centre streets

Cardiff Council will decide today whether Greyfriars Road and Churchill Way will join St Mary Street, City Road And Crwys Road in becoming alcohol saturation zones.

Greyfriars Road has seen a 387% rise in violent crime in the past two years and is the second busiest street in Cardiff, after St Mary Street, for violent crime incidents. Churchill Way has far fewer violent crimes but police say due to its high number of residential and business properties it warrants saturation zone status as well.

South Wales Police statistics supporting the Greyfriars Road and Churchill Way saturation zone application

But when I’ve told Cardiffians about this most don’t have a clue what a saturation zone is, let alone that the city has three of them. So here at Cardiff Drinks we are going to educate the masses and give you some info to add to your pub knowledge. Pub knowledge is power.

Police presence is highly visible on city centre weekends

It all begins when the police approach the local authority with concerns over the number of licensed premises within an area, especially if crime rates are rising. They ask the council to consider a saturation policy to help tackle the problem and stop any more venues opening.

A saturation zone, once agreed by the council, creates a presumption that an application for a new licensed premises will be refused in a certain area. A license will only be granted if the applicant can demonstrate the proposed venue will have no detrimental effect on these licensing objectives:

  • Prevention of crime and disorder
  • Public safety
  • Prevention of public nuisance
  • Protection of children from harm

It is purposefully difficult for anyone to prove they won’t cause a possible negative effect on these objectives. In an interview with Cardiff Drinks, Sergeant Scott Lloyd, Licensing Officer for Cardiff, said: “It’s just a presumption if you like that…people have said that they’re guilty until proven innocent.” Not exactly in line with our courts of law is it.

But it’s not just new pubs and clubs that will not gain licenses. Saturation policies cover any new club, pub, restaurant, supermarket, off-license, live-music venue, theatre or anything else that might want to serve or sell alcohol. And the South Wales Echo has run many stories on business people frustrated by the policy that targets all licensed venues.

South Wales Police image showing density of reported crimes in Cardiff city centre 2010/11

Cathays Councillor Simon Pickard wants saturation zones to target pubs and clubs specifically. Writing in support of the principle of saturation zones around Greyfriars Road and Churchill Way, he said: “I would suggest that the policy should more clearly target vertical drinking establishments which serve alcohol beyond midnight, whilst making it clear that traditional live music venues or restaurants which might want an alcohol license until midnight would be welcomed rather than discouraged.” A view Councillor Gavin Cox, deputy chairman of the council’s licensing committee, firmly agrees with.

Back in January 2005, the saturation zone on St Mary Street was one of the first to be set up in the UK. But once the council creates a saturation zone, does it reduce the violent crime which occurs most around the city centre late at night?

When asked how the saturation zone helped tackle crime and disorder on St Mary Street, Sgt Lloyd said:

Saturation zones are clearly not the panacea for crime and disorder in Cardiff after dark. They are just one of many tools used by police and the council to combat crime and disorder.

But they are proving a popular and useful tool, which is why they are being sought by the police for Greyfriars Road and Churchill Way.

Sgt Lloyd explains the police’s reasoning behind requesting the zone for these two streets:

However, the police can only make a request to the local authority. In the end it is up to the council to weigh up all the factors and decide whether Greyfriars Road and Churchill Way need to have their drinks venues capped. By the end of today we’ll know if they will join St Mary Street, City Road and Crwys Road, in becoming saturation zones. For good or for bad.

Manic Street Preachers favourite Cardiff pub

James Dean Bradfield is in the grip of a Vulcan. In a Guardian article about what makes the perfect pub, the lead singer of the Manic Street Preachers came out in support of his favourite Cardiff boozer – the Vulcan Hotel on Adam Street.

The Vulcan is a perfect old-fashioned Welsh pub says James Dean Bradfield (Flickr pic by Chris Boland)

The Vulcan is a perfect old-fashioned Welsh pub says James Dean Bradfield (Flickr pic by Chris Boland)

The Vulcan is a no-nonsense spit and sawdust pub and is the last remaining link to the area of Cardiff once known as Newtown. The Vulcan was built in 1853. Back then Newtown was densely populated with Irish workers who migrated to the city to help build Cardiff’s docks, which were exporting coal from the Valleys all across the world. But times have changed.

Back in 2008 the Vulcan was threatened with demolition to make way for the St David’s 2 shopping centre. After a heartfelt campaign to save the Vulcan, which garnered much celebrity and political support, the pub was given a brief reprieve from the gallows. The Vulcan was granted a new three-year lease by the developers, Rapport, but the future is still uncertain for this Cardiff institution. It could still close in June 2012.

Here’s what Mr Bradfield had to say about the place:

I’ve had a really long relationship with the Vulcan. Weirdly, I used to get taken there as a kid on international days. I like the fact that it was a bit off the main drag. It’s worth the effort you have to make to go there. The nearest pub to where you live or work isn’t always the right one, in fact most of the time it’s the complete opposite. It’s appalling that the Vulcan is threatened with demolition. It’s a perfect example of an old-fashioned Welsh pub, beautifully basic. These places have to be preserved for future generations, they’re a reflection of the times they’ve survived though.

The pub is still threatened with demolition in 2012 (Flickr pic by Stuart Herbert)

The pub is still threatened with demolition in 2012 (Flickr pic by Stuart Herbert)

It’s hard to see pubs as we know them existing for much longer because everything is so much geared towards reinvention, making things more healthy. From the food served to the smoking ban. Pubs now have become the acceptable face of intellectual gourmet-ism, part of an aspirational lifestyle sold in Sunday supplements. You haven’t got the freedom to be decadent in the working-class sense anymore.

I think what gets lost so often is simplicity. Somewhere like the Vulcan, there isn’t that much to do there. You either drink or you play darts or you talk and that’s enough. I hate the fact that people come to places and say, “This place must change!” Why does everywhere have to hauled into the modern era in the name of progress? My heart always sinks slightly when I hear about somewhere that I’ve found solace in – a truly great pub – that has been taken over and been spruced up. So many of my favourite locals over the years are now thin approximations of what they were. And half the time, they’re struggling to get customers in as they’ve lost the spirit of what made them great. Progress would change everything that I love about somewhere like the Vulcan, somewhere that seems to seep history through the very walls.