A Wetherspoon's on the motorway? I'll have a curry, a few pints, and a breath mint for the drive

Whether the chain serves food, or the belief that most people would stick to a lemonade, I think it’s only prodding that susceptible someone to take a risk

Josh Barrie
Wednesday 05 June 2013 16:56

For “pre-loading” favourite JD Wetherspoon, known to many as ‘Spoons’, opening an establishment on the side of a motorway is apparently a good idea.

The company plans to open the £2million yet-to-be-named bar at the end of the year. I’d go with ‘The Terminus’.

The intended pub will be near Beaconsfield and has already come under fire from campaigners. Many claim that a roadside pub would ‘tempt’ motorists and “send out the wrong message to drivers”. To me that seems like a logical conclusion. Drinking is a popular pastime; as a nation we struggle to keep to just one as the designated taxi already, let alone when there’s a cheap pub at the service station.

It’s unsurprising then that action groups such as Brake feel that drivers will fail in resisting the urge for a sneaky drop. Organisation spokesperson Laura Woods told me that “it’s desperately worrying that some drivers might think it’s okay to stop off for a quick drink on their way home, which could easily lead to tragedy.” Of course this is a stringent view. There are guidelines to say that a little alcohol in the system is fine when behind the wheel – though isn’t promoting that so formidably a little overbearing? As my mother used to say, ‘it’s a limit, not a target’. Indeed.

One G&T might be fine if the designated driver wants to allow themselves a treat before heading back down the road, but that’s an entirely different situation to a 6.30pm hurry back from the office to the Buckinghamshire home.

The M40 is a commuter channel – a lonely road for the lonely drive back from work. Is there need for users to stop for a quick whisky and coke? A group of young boys driving to a party in Henley? Are travelling families going to hit up a Spoons over a café on the way up to a weekend in Birmingham? Won’t couples choose a slightly more romantic spot to have Sunday lunch while journeying from London?

From scenario to scenario a pub next to the motorway gets more ridiculous an idea. When is it ever more practical, sensible or reasonable – however many are in the car?  

Whether the chain serves food or not and despite the positive belief that most people would stick to a lemonade, in my view it’s only prodding that susceptible someone to take a risk. A flagship of our drinking culture next to a busy home counties artery is potentially fueling a social problem. It's sparking no end of worry in health professionals across the country

But the team at JD Wetherspoon doesn’t appear to be all that concerned with the proposition that a new establishment might lead to drink driving. On the Huffington Post on Monday, a spokesman was reported to have said this regarding the planned opening: “We won’t be asking them [customers] whether they are driving. It’s up to them”. Apparently chairman Tim Martin doesn’t “see any problem”.

In fact, the “innovative” Mr Martin is said to want to see pubs all over the road network. By 2020 we might even have a Lloyds No.1 Bar on the M25. Why not? Traffic jams won’t be as boring at least, as frustrated drivers can simply hop out at Junction Five for a cheap burger and pint. Drinks will be served until 1am by the way; they may as well stay for a while. After party on the M4 anyone?

The BBC reported that "the news comes amid a government consultation on the lifting of alcohol sales restrictions at motorway services." This gives a somewhat mixed message to its drink-loving nation, given the recent attempts to plug binge drinking once and for all. Who can forget the irresponsible culture outlined so wonderfully by Theresa May in past months? We’re not allowed to save a bit of money before going out on the town, but it’s okay to pop in for a Prosecco or two on the way to John Lewis? I’m not sure this follows the previous ethos of our caring, health conscious cabinet.

Of course, ultimately, it’s down to the public to act with dignity. Perhaps we can’t blame the pub chain for moving forward in economic, strategic fashion - it’s definitely a niche market.

I just think a pub on the roadside is like putting a McDonald’s in a gym; a strip club in the Vatican; an ASDA in Chelsea. It has no place anywhere near it. As told by the BBC on at the start of the week, the company said that it believes “the majority of people driving won’t be drinking”. ‘The majority’? Some will be then. And yes you can purchase alcohol at service stations already, but getting a bottle of wine from M&S for the in-laws is not a pub on the motorway. It does not hold the same weight or proposition. 

Oh well, just remember: ‘Don’t drink and drive’ – too much.

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