Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Pubs Turn Up the Volume to Make You Drink More; Sales Ploy by Landlords Is Condemned as 'Cynical'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Pubs Turn Up the Volume to Make You Drink More; Sales Ploy by Landlords Is Condemned as 'Cynical'

Article excerpt


LOUD music played in pubs is being deliberately used to encourage excessive drinking, experts claimed today.

Academics and pressure groups say the ear-splitting music means people can't talk to each other - and so they drink up quicker.

Geethika Jayatilaka of Alcohol Concern said the "cynical policy" of cranking up the music "is one of the things - like having salty bar snacks - which tend to exacerbate our cultural tendency to binge drink".

An Evening Standard survey of London pubs on a Saturday night proved that three out of four were playing recorded music louder than European safety standards. In two it was almost as loud as standing beside a pneumatic drill, our decibel meter found. And none responded to a polite request to turn down the volume.

The response from one bar worker was: "Usually when you've had some alcohol your sense of hearing gets a bit deadened anyway, so why not order a triple vodka?"

Campaigners today condemned the loud music policy, both for fuelling Britain's heavy drinking culture and for putting staff and customers at serious risk of permanent hearing damage.

A spokesman for the Royal National Institute for the Deaf said the results of our survey were worrying.

"As a rule of thumb, if you can't talk to someone two metres away without shouting, it means the noise is too loud," he said.

"Regular overexposure to loud music can lead to premature hearing loss. It can also cause ringing in the ears which may become permanent. Once hearing damage occurs there is no cure."

Pubs are already under fire for encouraging binge drinking with special promotions. Ms Jayatilaka said: "Over the last 30 years we have moved from the traditional local with a diversity of customers to places which are much more about attracting young people-and encouraging them to drink excessively and quickly.

"There is an undercurrent of heightened sexuality, a dimmeddown lighting system and booming sound. The culture is quite hedonistic.

"The industry makes about [pounds sterling]20 million profit a year. It has to acknowledge that what it is selling can do damage."

A 1999 Home Office study found pubs which played loud music were more likely to be plagued by violence and antisocial behaviour.

"If you are a bit drunk and someone bumps into you and you can't really hear what they are saying, it is easy for the incident to spiral out of control," said Ms Jayatilaka.

Andrew McNeill, of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, said: "These are drunkenness factories. They do bear a responsibility, but so does the Government which has created a market in which they are allowed to function like that."

Maureen Heffernan, spokeswoman for the Laurel Pub Company which owns the Hogshead chain, said: "We provide an entertainment environment in which music is played, but not at excessive levels. …

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