Pubwatch schemes: here yesterday, gone tomorrow?
Right now, barely 10% of licenced premises are open. No one knows when Britain’s leisure industry will be back to work – but there’s no doubt it won’t ever be quite the same.
Even before Coronavirus, a pub was closing every 12 hours across the UK. So adapting to the ‘new normal’ is only one challenge that faces publicans in the years ahead.
When lockdown is lifted many licensed premises will remain closed: much of the sector was financially under-resourced at the best of times and Coronavirus will have called last orders on many. Those that survive will look inevitably to reduce essential costs to the minimum, and identify and jettison non-essential ones altogether.
Where will this leave Pubwatch schemes?
Many Pubwatch schemes are relatively informal groups of licensees who share information about local troublemakers and, where appropriate, exclude them from their premises. Few charge member subscriptions: hopefully their future will be relatively secure in the cash-strapped future.
Larger Pubwatches, however, tend to be supported by subscriptions, and these will undoubtedly be under pressure as members look to reduce non-essential overheads. Many depend on a single member to manage the Pubwatch’s affairs: maybe he or she will be among those that don’t resume trading when the lockdown is eventually lifted in full. It isn’t always easy to find a replacement willing to step up in their place. Too often Pubwatch schemes simply fade away when a key ‘mover and shaker’ decides to hand in their empties for good.
Yet Pubwatches provide an invaluable service, and not just to their members. Keeping troublemakers away benefits not only pubs but the wider communities in which they are located. Police and licensing authorities work closely with Pubwatches not only so that pubs maintain good order but also that young offenders can be identified at an early stage. Pubwatches provide invaluable opportunities to encourage youngsters to improve their behaviour and, where necessary, to refer them to council’s Early Intervention teams and ultimately, and only where unavoidable, to the police and the criminal justice system.
It’s sad to see pubs close their doors for good – but it’s nothing short of tragic to see Pubwatches closing wholesale around the country. Yet, for as long as Pubwatch schemes are under-resourced, reliant on a single ‘mover and shaker’ member to keep them going, and for receive no direct support from police and councils, that’s what we can expect.
Some police forces and local authorities already provide invaluable support for Pubwatches in their areas – but most don’t. True – many Pubwatches are keen to maintain their independence from local policing and licencing authorities. But with Pubwatches under pressure nationwide, police and councils everywhere should explore what they can do to provide support for these groups.
For example, even for the most independently-minded Pubwatch, police and councils can provide access to online management tools like Disc, to make it easier for the Pubwatch to manage its own affairs without any undue reliance on a single ‘mover and shaker’. In doing so, police and councils can also ensure that the Pubwatch operates in compliance with legal obligations, not least of which is GDPR without which they’re understandably unwilling, for example, to share personal data of offenders.
The aim: a win-win deal for all. The Pubwatch benefits from improved information-sharing, mobile access to galleries of locally banned troublemakers, and legally compliant instant messaging. The police and council benefit from access to intel about low-level crime and Anti-Social Behaviour and the offenders behind it, as well as access to new ways of instantly and effectively communicating news, Alerts, documents and information about up-coming events etc to licensees across their policing area.
Find out more about Disc for Watch Groups.