Like fancy restaurants, golf courses, and dinners with your senile grandmother, bars have their own distinct set of etiquette. Tip your bartender always and well (of course); leave a napkin or coaster on top of your drink if you go outside to smoke; and know when it's your turn to buy the next round.
But Scotland Yard isn't so keen on that last bit if you're more than a couple drinks deep. They want Brits to cool it on the binge-drinking, and they think one way to turn things down a notch could be to criminalize your attempts to pick up the tab for a line of tequila shots for your clique.
At a meeting of the London Assembly this past Thursday, Scotland Yard Commander Simon Letchford outlined a few ways that he thinks London's rowdy drinkers can be mellowed, including the institution of penalties for individuals who purchase alcohol for the already-intoxicated, or charging drunk people for their usage of Accident & Emergency (A&E) services. (For Americans, this may seem laughable, as our emergency medical costs are notoriously sky-high. Not so in the UK, where the taxpayer-funded National Health Service currently picks up the bill.)
Letchford was asked by a politician what he would do to mitigate the prevalent issue of binge-drinking-fueled bar fights around the UK. Specifically, Conservative politician Roger Evans cited people seeking "violent confrontation at the end of the evening so they have something to talk about the day after." Sounds like a bunch of Begbies are on the loose.
In response, Letchford said that this problem is instigated by "a small core of people, not just men but women as well, who are going out on Friday and Saturday nights and getting drunk as part of their social group. And they don't see that as not normal."
Is getting trashed on the weekends so abnormal? Hmm. This "small core" sounds like a few people we know, Mr. Letchford. Perhaps it is not quite as "small" as you think.
"Some of the things we have talked about is whether you actually start to challenge the people," Letchford explained. "So if I go out with you, you get drunk, [then] I get a fine because I keep buying you drinks while you're drunk."
Sounds like we won't be going out with Letchford any time soon. But also, how exactly are bars supposed to monitor just how drunk every patron in their establishment is? Unclear.
''So then you start to lose your social circle of friends because they think, 'Well, I'm not going out with you because every time I go out with you I get a fine,'" Letchford continued. "We just have to be a bit more creative about how we challenge that social norm that it's OK to go out, get drunk and get into a fight."
So to recap Scotland Yard's plan: Charge your friends for trying to be nice by pitching in for a round, then slowly making you into a social pariah because you're simply too much of a financial liability.
Critics were not so pleased with Letchford's ideas, calling them "ridiculous" and "unenforceable," according to The Daily Mail. Short of having breathalyzers on hand at every alcohol-dispensing institution, it would be quite difficult to enforce such a measure or even to prove who bought what if the transactions were done in cash.
"This ridiculous idea would be a bureaucratic nightmare," said Conservative MP Andrew Griffiths, who is also the chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group. "It would make life incredibly difficult for publicans who are already having to deal with the consequences of people pre-loading with supermarket drink, and would be another nail in the coffin of the pub industry."
Good point, Griffiths. What if someone pre-gamed into oblivion before showing up at a bar and asking a mate to spot them a few pounds for a pint?
But Letchford aims to increase "collective responsibility," both among pub owners and three-sheets-to-the-wind customers.
Some 15 years ago, Prime Minister-at-the-time Tony Blair made a similar suggestion, proposing that drunk and disorderly individuals be charged £100 on the spot for their ruckus, even arguing that police officers could escort these wanton wastoids to an ATM and have them take out the money right then and there. However, the idea was dismissed as "another headline-grabbing gimmick."
Perhaps Letchford is forgetting that there is a serious punishment for nights of debaucherous drunkenness and bad behavior while under the influence. It's called a hangover.