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Fri 7th Oct 2016 - Friday Opinion
Subjects: Dog-friendly hospitality, hands off our puddings, and licence reviews and individual responsibility
Authors: Glynn Davis, Paul Chase and Gary Grant

Dog-friendly hospitality by Glynn Davis

Dog-friendly hospitality to me is a bowl of water placed at the door of the pub while a doggy bag is for the customer to consume the contents the next day rather than to give to Fido back home. When I find that burger group Shake Shack has a dog section on its menu labelled “Woof” I get the impression that I might just be a little behind the curve on this pet thing. To be honest it is rather a short menu comprising Pooch-ini – red velvet biscuits, peanut butter sauce and vanilla custard – at £4.75 and Bag O’Bones – five red velvet dog biscuits made by New York’s Bocce Bakery – at £5. 
 
It might be concise but I quite like the sound of the Pooch-ini with the specially produced biscuits and the custard although I doubt it is the frozen variety that Shake Shack is famous for. Although the menu suggests they are treats for those with four feet, in my book any place that lets dogs in will no doubt be pretty relaxed about who consumes them. Even though the Woof menu is available in the Shake Shack in London’s Covent Garden I took this whimsical bit of the menu to be a rather American thing. But then I found out a burger joint near me in north London also has a penchant for catering for canine customers. It had in fact produced the Bow Wow Burger that came in an authentic burger box and was created by dog treat specialists Murphy’s Bakery. It even included dog-edible accompaniments that look like ketchup and salad. I’m not really sure why because most adults ditch the salad.
 
When I took a recent look at the Porky’s menu I was rather excited to see it had a proper Dog section but closer inspection revealed it to be hot dogs – Hound Dog and Chilli Dog – and that the Bow Wow Burger had alas only been produced for National Dog Day on 26 August. Despite the menu now being a Bow Wow Burger-free zone Porky’s is very much billed as a dog-friendly chain and there is a section on its website devoted to photos of dogs in its restaurants. Unfortunately rather too many of them seem to have dogs perched on the tables for my liking. This probably gets to the heart of the matter of why some diners are uncomfortable with people being actively encouraged to take their pets out with them for dinner.
 
But just as with children, any bad behaviour – such as climbing on tables, biting, making too much noise including barking sounds, and a general lack of toilet training – is wholly down to the parents and not the fault of the dog. Well behaved dogs are being increasingly welcomed in a variety of places, including the high quality Corbin & King restaurants Colbert, Bellanger, and the American Bar at The Beaumont. They are more than happy to have dogs accompany their owners for dinner. There is certainly a trend for this in the US with the laws in New York recently following those in California in allowing dogs into the outdoor areas of restaurants.
 
In the UK there is a growing desire to attract dog owners into pubs and this has led to the Dog Friendly Pub Awards, sponsored by online dog-sitting community DogBuddy, which found more than two-thirds of owners are put off a pub if it is not dog-friendly. A quarter of owners have immediately gone elsewhere if they have received unfriendly treatment. Clearly the demand is there for more dog-friendly hospitality venues by pet owners, judging by the recent research from Pets Pyjamas that found a hefty 87% of dog owners would take their pet out to breakfast, brunch, pubs, bars and restaurants. The survey also found 82% buy new toys for their dogs on a regular basis, with 47% spending up to £500 each year on toys, accessories and clothing. And 92% buy gifts for their dog on special occasions such as their birthdays and Christmas.
 
Something in these numbers tells me I should not be that surprised if I start to see lots more dogs down the pub and in restaurants when I’m dining out. I must also remember to take the utmost care when I peruse the Dog section of the menu next time I’m out for a meal.
Glynn Davis is a leading commentator on retail trends 
 

Hands off our puddings by Paul Chase

According to The Times, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, recently told a private meeting with 100 food producers eating-out is “no longer a treat” and chain restaurants, takeaways and fast food retailers should reduce the size of their puddings, cakes and pastries – and those that don’t will be publicly named and shamed! It is hard to think of a more egregious example of nanny-state meddling than this. But what is this based on and how will it work?
 
Apparently consumers will be able to check companies’ efforts on a website, although exactly how comparisons will be made has yet to be decided. This comes alongside food producers being asked to cut sugar in key products by 20% over the next five years, and the introduction of the sugar levy on soft drinks’ producers, due to come into effect in 2018. This is all about the government and Public Health England engaging in the “war on sugar” in order to combat the “obesity epidemic”. Simply giving people information and letting them make a free choice is no longer enough – “Doing nothing is not an option,” Hunt said.
 
So, let’s just look at a couple of facts. There is no doubt that adult obesity has increased over the past 40 years across the world. The number of people in the UK with a body mass index over 30 has risen from 8% of the population to about 30%. Obesity is strongly associated with a number of chronic illnesses, particularly type-2 diabetes, although obesity is by no means the only cause. The question at issue here is how strongly is sugar consumption implicated in the rise in obesity and its related diseases? It is not so long ago the fat content of our diet was regarded as the main cause of obesity, since when dietary fads such as the Atkins Diet have suggested that carbohydrates, which break down into sugars, are now regarded by many as the new “bad guy” on the block.
 
Sugar consumption peaked in the UK in 1961 at just over 50 kilograms per capita. Today it is just over 30 kilograms, so the rise in obesity has correlated with a fall in the consumption of sugar added to our diets, including the sugar added to dessert products. But all sugars are not the same. Or are they? Insofar as blood sugar levels are a health worry, it is important to note the blood sugar concerned, glucose, is not the same as the sugar we add to our tea or coffee, which is sucrose. Sucrose is a combination of two simpler sugars – glucose and fructose, which are separated when sucrose is digested. A great deal of concern has also been expressed about the use of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), but EU regulations strictly control HFCS production so it is far less commonly used in the UK than it is in the US.
 
Whilst sucrose is an important source of glucose in the Western diet it is by no means the only one. Foods high in starch such as potatoes, rise, pasta and bread also break down into sucrose once consumed. So, even without food products that contain added sugar the switch from diets high in saturated fats to ones high in carbohydrates, which was official advice for nearly 40 years, will have increased our consumption of sugar.
 
A lot of the government policies in relation to diet and disease seem to reflect the views of noisy campaign groups like Action on Sugar. The justification they provide for government intervention is that “Big Food” and “Big Sugar” (like “Big Alcohol”) are engaged in a deliberate strategy of addiction. Sugar, according to Robert Lustig, the activist academic behind Action on Sugar, is an addictive substance and much of our food, particularly processed foods, is deliberately spiked with sugar to keep us hooked. And of course alcohol is an addictive substance too! This fantasy of a conspiracy of addiction leading to a form of covert corporate coercion is the basis on which groups like Action on Sugar seek to persuade government that people don’t really make free choices when they buy Jamie Oliver’s Eton mess, or a can of cola.
 
It seems to me that people have plenty of information about the content of what they eat and drink and there are a wide variety of “healthy choices” available to them. Government intervention is only justified if there is a failure of the market to provide either information or choice and that is clearly not the case. But that won’t stop nanny wagging her finger! Now, where did I put my pack of M&M’s?
Paul Chase is a director of CPL Training and a leading commentator on on-trade health and alcohol policy 
 

Licence reviews and individual responsibility by Gary Grant

In 1923, Prince and Princess Fahmy arrived at the Savoy Hotel. The prince, Ali Kemal Fahmy, was a 22-year-old Egyptian who had met his bride, an elegant brunette divorcee ten years his senior, the year before in Paris. She was then known as Madame Marguerite Laurent. Unbeknown to Prince Fahmy, she had lived a colourful life as an adolescent prostitute before emerging as a high-class courtesan. Unbeknown to Marguerite, her bi-sexual husband had a penchant for sexual sadism and, as the Old Bailey later heard, for “unnatural bedroom practices”. 

Eight days later in the Savoy’s restaurant an argument erupted between them that degenerated to such an extent that Madame Fahmy picked up a wine bottle and threatened to smash it over her husband’s head. Waiters intervened to prevent what police officers would now refer to as “a serious glassing”. This was not the first violent dispute this unhappy couple had had in the days they spent at the Savoy. There was, therefore a “track record” of violence at the venue involving these individuals.

A night porter was walking past the Fahmy’s suite when he heard three gunshots. When he entered the room he saw the prince bleeding profusely from a fatal wound to his temple. Madame Fahmy was seen dropping a smoking Browning automatic pistol to the floor. She was charged with murder. If convicted, the only sentence she faced was to be hanged.

Just over two months later she appeared in the Old Bailey dock for her trial represented by Sir Edward Marshall Hall KC, widely celebrated as “The Great Defender”. Before a jury of English gentlemen he argued Madame Fahmy – an innocent and beautiful European lady – had been drawn into the “Oriental Garden” of her perverted and degenerate Egyptian husband. When the prince persisted in his unspeakable marital demands, his client had opened fire in fear for her life. As “The Great Defender” put it: “This man met his death in a struggle due to his own iniquity.” She was sensationally acquitted. (The “innocent” Madame Fahmy later died in poverty in 1971 after fraudulently and unsuccessfully claiming she had borne a son by her late husband to claim his inheritance).

The relevance of this account, in addition to its prurient interest, is this: despite the Savoy Hotel attracting unsavoury customers and hosting a threatened glassing between individuals with a propensity for violence, and even though a gun was successfully smuggled past the hotel’s security and used to commit a murder, the continuation of the Savoy’s alcohol and entertainment licences was never called into question.

Accelerate more than 90 years to the present day. Perhaps change the location to a popular inner city nightclub. What might happen? The instinct of some regulators might be to instantly launch summary review proceedings, to seek a suspension of the Savoy’s premises licence as an interim step and then seek to revoke it at the full review hearing before the council’s licensing sub-committee. After all, a serious murder had been committed in the Savoy and something must be done.

But would the council then be right to revoke the Savoy’s licence in these circumstances? Most people would probably answer the question: “No. Surely, any blame properly lies with the individuals involved in the incident rather than the Savoy Hotel itself?” Sometimes, despite best practices being followed by responsible operators, people with criminal intent will choose to commit a crime on licensed premises. The incident in question may not necessarily be down to any fault by the operator, anymore than it would be the fault of a local council if, god forbid, the shooting took place in the lobby of its town hall. And nor would it inevitably be the fault of the police as an institution if an individual high on drugs subsequently dies of a seizure whilst being detained in the cell of a police station. In neither of these circumstances would one conclude it was “appropriate or proportionate” for the town hall to be closed down or the police station to permanently shut its doors.

Why not? Well, the answer lies in our recognition that venues, licensed or otherwise, cannot control every aspect of human behaviour. The scope for individual mischievousness and deviousness can be infinite and so it cannot always be perfectly predicted or prevented. That is the real world licensed premises operate in. Whilst operators serving alcohol and providing entertainment undoubtedly owe a duty of care to their customers, and the overwhelming majority approach their duties seriously and responsibly, regulators must not overlook the role that individual responsibility has to play in tragic incidents on licensed premises and in reducing alcohol-related harms. The government’s alcohol strategy recognised as much back in 2012.

But, when a tragedy occurs, it is the bricks and mortar of the licensed premises that finds itself in the spotlight of a licence review rather than the individuals directly responsible for the criminality who are generally beyond the scope of the Licensing Act 2003. In assessing what action to take at licence reviews local authorities and police forces will rightly scrutinise whether the operators of the premises in question have acted professionally and in accordance with best practice and their own premises licence conditions. But in doing so they must never lose sight of the role that individual responsibility has to play when determining an appropriate outcome that both promotes the licensing objectives and recognises the essential role the late-night economy plays in the lives and happiness of so many. This remains true even in the most difficult of cases.
Gary Grant is a leading licensing barrister at Francis Taylor Building and a vice-chairman of the Institute of Licensing

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