"Bring your own booze" or not drink at all?

"Bring your own booze" or not drink at all?

There’s quite a lively discussion just now on the Face Book site of a festival which I visited fairly recently.

Apparently, people have been attending pub sessions and not buying a drink or even "smuggling" in their own on some occasions!
In my view, both practices are out of order. However, there is a bit of a grey area where some of the bars have offered up space for "official events" such as workshops and small concerts etc and I can understand why some attendees may not always feel the need to purchase a drink if they have actually bought a ticket for an event and are there for some "more serious" less social purpose.

Anyway, it’s not my intention to focus on this particular festival but to open up the discussion more generally. Personally, I usually like to buy a drink or two when I visit a session even although I generally take much more care of myself than in my younger days. It doesn’t have to be alcohol either, of course, but I don’t think the "tap water brigade" do the session scene too many favours.
Of course, some pubs will kindly offer the core musicians a "tab" which they may or may not choose to share. However, I will still want to spend some of my own money even if I get a free drink or two but I’ve often noticed that some others will only have a drink if offered from a tab/kitty or whatever.

Generally, I find the situation worse at folk festivals where many are happy enough to sit in the pub all night without getting a drink before going back to the camp site or wherever and "scooping up" on their cheap supermarket wine and beer and so on. They will often have purchased their food elsewhere too. So, local restaurants and shops may lose out too.

I should add that it’s not necessarily only musicians and singers who are guilty of this but also their entourage and followers.

Of course, most of us would consider the actual music to be the most important thing here and attitudes towards drinking have generally become "more sensible" and that’s a good thing. However, if we are choosing to visit a particular bar, restaurant, or even a town in general, it is surely important to support the livelihoods of the locals especially if we are taking up lots of extra space?

In recent years, I’ve found that many pubs etc and towns in general are generally less welcoming towards visiting folkies and musicians and I think much of this is to do with the fact that they don’t regard us as big money earners as far as they are concerned. While there will always be establishments which would prefer to attract punters with sports on the "big screen", more modern(and loud) music etc who will probably spend much more money than, we are probably not helping ourselves either.

Re: "Bring your own booze" or not drink at all?

Well really, the pub should be feeding and watering the musicians. However if they do not, it is bad form to sneak your own booze in, yeah.

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Always buy a drink (or something), whether you consume it or not; regard it as your entry fee to the premises.

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At the Irish club in Galway, even the bodhran players get free booze all night! At least when I was there last. That was a 5am finish too!

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Jay it’s intriguing to me to read between the lines as best I can to paint a mental picture of this festival.

I’m going on Facebook now to try to find the "lively discussion".

In general I’ll buy one beer- my limit because I’m driving- then join your Tap Water Brigade, or buy a soda perhaps. I don’t expect free drink.

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Our local sessions have a couple guys who are alcoholics with a lot of self-control. They always order water or seltzer with lime. Most of the rest of us usually will order a shot of Tullamore or Jameson, or occasionally wine, in addition to the pint of Guinness’ that the pub comps us. Sundays are often slow days for the pub, so I like to make the pub owner feel like at least the session guys will spend a little.
Sneaking in your own booze would be sleazy at best, and in the local pubs easily spotted. Way uncool, dudes.

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Depends on whether you’re doing the pub a favour or they’re doing you a favour. If I’m providing free entertainment and bringing custom in, and the management is clearly happy with it, then why would I feel obligated to spend money as well? If, on the other hand, I’m driving away custom, and the management is just tolerating my presence, then, yes, I certainly should spend money for the privilege of sitting there, like anyone else. (Sneaking booze in is for teenage rebels, not for adults).

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Johnny Jay, I’ve no idea what country you’re in, that doesn’t sound anything like Ireland at least.
I’ve never felt an obligation to buy a drink at a gig or session anyway. Tarring people with the "Tap water brigade" label is a tad childish and a bit out of date in my humble opinion.

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Pubs are closing down for good at an alarming rate. I can’t see any publican being particularly happy having their pub full of people buying nothing. Perhaps they should start charging entrance.

In my local town at the weekend some of the pubs used to be full of young people who, having got tanked up at home, used the pubs as meeting places and bought nothing. Now those pubs are closed.

Perhaps if you live in an area where they put on mock sessions for the tourists then, if you’re not getting paid, you might expect to get a free drink. Otherwise you should be using the hospitality of the venue and paying for it. I mean, would it be acceptable to book a table at a swanky restaurant and only eat the cheese sandwich you brought with you?

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If I’m in a pub, it’s almost impossible for me not to buy at least pint (more if I’m not driving). I suppose there’s a word for that….

Sneaking in your own booze is a d*ck move. Who does that? Otherwise, I know of people who don’t drink alcohol for one reason or another, and they buy soft drinks or have water. You can’t begrudge them that.

I wonder what festival that is.

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Which festival is it?

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Tap Water Brigade is out then?

How about the Royal Tapwatershire Fusiliers?

In any case I’m in the camp that appreciates the hospitality and feel that buying a pint or two is doing my bit.

I certainly don’t think of myself as an exploited musician. If my band was putting on a concert and not getting paid that’s another matter.

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Our session brings in customers, and they provide us with free beer. It is held at a place that’s known for having music, and we help them keep that going. It is a symbiotic relationship, if you will.

We do tip the staff. Many will know that in the US bartenders and wait staff are basically paid in tips, and we don’t expect them to work for free.

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I always consider that you should buy a drink, it is sort of like good manners. Problem for me is when I have one pint I often then overdo it and end up not being able to play. My main session now sells alco free erdinger pint bottles which are great because they let me have a pint without the damage. Was there last night and had two of them. Feels better actually buying a drink rather than the water - helps out the kind bar host.

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Buying a drink can be expensive. Even soft drink (soda) is not cheap at a pub. I always buy at least one drink, but if I was dirt poor I wouldn’t buy every time. Anyone should be able to play even if they can’t afford a drink.

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"Anyone should be able to play even if they can’t afford a drink."

As Meself has commented, a lot depends on whether the session is doing the pub a favour or the other way round. If you are adding something to the proceedings and the music is being *encouraged* by the management then, of course, it’s probably OK to play away and not worry so much about having to buy a drink especially if payment and/or free drinks is being provided anyway.
However, if the pub is just allowing some of their *customers* to have a tune or song this is another scenario. The difference may seem subtle and not even that obvious to a casual punter or "walk in" musician.

The festival in question happened in a lovely Northern seaside/fishing town. To be honest, I didn’t encounter any problems with any of the regular pub sessions. None of the musicians or punters were taking advantage and the management/staff were all very friendly and welcoming.

I believe that any issues mostly related to workshops and other festival events which would have been held within some of the pubs during the day. As I said, this seemed to be a bit of a "grey area" as attendees would have already purchased tickets and/or come along to specific events which were advertised to be held there rather than for either "sessioning" or drinking.

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Obviously if there is a (semi-)professional / commercial understanding between core group and the venue then that governs the expectation of what each is getting from the arrangement (at least with regard to the core group). But even a venue that offers musicians a free drink might reasonably expect them to buy one back. Where the musicians are bringing in or retaining a decent crowd (who are spending) then the dynamic changes.

I agree with you @JJ,MP the rule of thumb should be - don’t be a cheapskate. There is an obligation to support the venues that support the music. Buy a drink, or two, or three or more according to what you can afford. Casual/drop-in members of the group (musicians and singers) as well as any "entourage" should buy at least a drink an hour. And tip too, according to local conventions, (even on "free" rounds) if the venue would expect so. Soft drinks or non-alcoholic beers are fine as are teas/coffees or bottled (paid for) water for those not wishing to imbibe.

Smuggling drink in is just wrong. If you’re enjoying the music (playing or listening), the ambience, the company, the chat or simply the temporary escape then pay something for the privilege.

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The two pub sessions I went to differed.

In one, musicians bought their own drink, but at half-past nine, the management provided a tray of sandwiches and chips.

In the other, the session leader got a free drink or two, but other musicians paid for their own. However, that session was so tunefully abundant that I don’t think there was time for the players to drink a lot, so the management probably hoped that the session atmosphere would bring in listeners who’d buy extra drinks.

I agree that it wouldn’t be right to bring in your own food and drink.

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Whether you drink or not is up to you. But if you’re in a public house you should buy something, alcoholic or not.
You never bring your own drink into a bar. Never. Why would you do that?

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I don’t think "which festival was that?" is particularly relevant. It happens all over the place, though usually only a certain minority who do it. I would always buy a drink anyway, whether it be alcohol, soft drink, tea or coffee. Just not on to bring your own. At another festival a whole bunch of people were thrown out of a club bar after several hours of not buying anything, and consuming their own food and drink.

Several of our regular sessions provide sandwiches at half-time: they have a very full pub, which would probably have fewer than half those numbers on a non-session day. Goodwill all round.

At one pub at another festival they provide jugs of beer for the core group of musicians (sadly I don’t like beer and never get a free cider, so buy my own!), and at 9 pm there are sausages, chips, chicken wings provided by the management. Amazing how many people turn up just around that time having not played a note or sung a song all day!

Only rarely have I ever been offered free food, drink or money for my humble efforts at being a good sessioneer or even session host, but it’s all about enjoying it. One pub gives a discount on drinks to those who are participating, and water, tea and coffee are free.

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"Why would you do that?" I’m not defending the practice, but I think the answer is obvious: you (feel you) can’t afford the cost of a drink in the establishment, but want to be in the establishment, and want to drink.

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I don’t agree.
It’s more that some people are tight and have a free festival mentality. I’ve met people who will only attend concerts if they can blag themselves in for nothing.

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I was thinking, more generally. I don’t have any opinion re: the festival, etc.

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The owner of our session pub generously provides two pints for the evening. Seems a fair practice to all. Occasionally some players will buy an extra or some food. No one drives home impaired. No one would even consider bringing in their own drinks! And don’t forget to tip the wait staff for the free drinks - they are serving you. On busy nights you are probably taking up at least a chair or stool and maybe a table that could be occupied by a paying customer. On the flip side the music may be bringing in some extra business. If we do it right everyone benefits.

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Meself said "I think the answer is obvious: you (feel you) can’t afford the cost of a drink in the establishment, but want to be in the establishment, and want to drink."

That’s not a musician thing, that’s a selfish human thing.

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Some people want to make an effort to support the venues hosting music, some people don’t care about anything but themselves, and some people just can’t, or choose not to, spend cash on frivolous things like booze and soda but want to be a part of a *public* gathering. each party will do what they want to do for their own reasons. We just simply don’t have any control over what anyone else chooses to do so it’s best not to worry too much about it.

I mean if some a-hole wants to bring their own booze to a pub then everyone knows they’re an a-hole; getting bent out of shape about it only makes a person look like an a-hole too! Judging other people because they don’t buy something isn’t really a good look either. I once saw it written that " you don’t need to punish someone else for being a bad person, their punishment is being a bad person." Words to live by as far as I’m concerned.

I mean really though, at the end of the day is it more important that people who want to experience the music get to experience the music and all that goes with it? Or is it more important that someone makes money from it?

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I think the situation John has described is a wee bit different than your average pub session. If a workshop were held in a pub, should the participants, who have paid for said workshop, be obligated to buy drinks? I probably would, to be honest, if only because music workshops are much more tolerable when hammered, but I could see how someone would think they weren’t. People don’t think workshop = booze, even if it happens to be in a pub.

The pub, on the other hand, might have agreed to hold the workshop because it got people through the door at a time of day when they might not normally be there.

I guess in that situation, you need to clarify and manage expectations of workshop participants and pubs.

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Sorry, trish, I asked which festival because I keep coming up with scenarios which play out differently from the one Johnny is describing in his original post.
Ben

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‘That’s not a musician thing, that’s a selfish human thing.’ … uh, yeah … and some musicians may well have traits of the selfish human, it seems to me ….

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I have seen 2 sessions close locally because the publican had many seats occupied by musos who didn’t buy anything or had a cup of tea. The economics of pubs are dire these days, and they just can’t afford to have tables occupied that aren’t generating income. They have to pay the lease and the staff and make a living, and this means hard decisions. These are the same pressures that are ending live music in most pubs around here-the fee for the band isn’t exceeded by the increase in customers, so the music goes.

Servers in Canada make a good part of their income from tips. If the servers complain to management that they don’t like the musos, it’s the musos who go. Keep the servers happy folks, and your session has a greater chance of lasting. I play at a session where musos get half price food, and I tip based on a percentage of the full amount, but I am the exception.

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Something I’ve learned over the years is that I’m not a guy who drinks a lot, unless I go just a little over the line and turn into somebody who does. My solution is to carry my own flask, a scant 3 ounces, to social functions and drink that and NO more. That said, I would never, truly never, take it into a pub/bar/restaurant. I can’t speak for other states here in the U.S. or any other country, but where I come from a bar owner is at risk of losing his hard to obtain license if I do and get caught, even if the owner doesn’t know what I’m up to. So to anything other than a house session, I would not show that much disrespect to a club owner who invited me in to play some tunes in good compan I leave the flask behind. I’m happy to buy a pint or two (pacing myself) glad for being welcomed, and be very generous to the staff when I leave. They make my good time possible. If I spotted anybody sneaking their own in I’ll rat him out in a heartbeat…no mercy.

Also, c’mon guys, we’re playing instruments we paid hundreds , if not a few thousand, of dollars for and we can’t afford a pint or two? Since I retired, I’m living on half of my working income and have to make choices in life now. I was born at night but not last night. I don’t buy the poverty line and I can spot a Class A jerk when I see one. I get that some choose not to drink and applaud the choice. But I draw the line at failing to support the business owner who supports me.

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Well, that Facebook thread that maybe sparked Johnny Jay’s thread here is still going on, with people complaining at being charged over £3 for a pint of ale (beer) in Yorkshire, and others saying that’s cheap at the price compared with wherever else they live in the UK!
As I said above, I don’t drink beer, rather preferring cider or white wine: the latter is subject to the most appalling price hikes: up to £7 for a a 175ml glass of what is more like vinegar, when you can buy a better 750ml bottle in a supermarket for around £5. A 500% markup on very mediocre wine; surely that can’t be justified, even when running costs, staff wages, etc are taken into account?
But it’s not just about price among those who bring their own stuff in: they just have no imagination about how the venue needs to take some money to survive, i.e. buy a drink or go sit on the beach or in your tent and play!
As for venues supplying a workshop space: my friend and I went to one which was a bar/coffee shop earlyish in the day: the coffee was great, although it did mean missing a few minutes of workshop to go and order it. Perhaps the workshop hosts might also remind folk to go and buy something from the proprietors?

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Last time I went to the session I didn’t order a drink. Honestly I had had to much to eat already and couldn’t fit a drink in on top of it. I felt bad about that. I’ll try to make it up next time.

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Tell me where you’ll be - and you can buy me one.

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I’d never consider bringing my own drinks or food to a venue (unless it’s a water bottle, an apple etc.).

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Before minimum pricing came in here in Scotland it was the case that a publican could buy alcohol cheaper in a supermarket than he could get it from his wholesaler so it’s misleading to compare bar prices with supermarket prices.
Besides, when I buy a bottle of wine in a supermarket it doesn’t come with glasses, somewhere to drink it and a convivial atmosphere.

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(And while we’re at it, I’d never consider a pub the proper venue for a workshop or any other kind of teaching setting, informal rehearsal room… )

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Round here pubs are the normal venues for group teaching, rehearsals, workshops etc. The cost of hiring community halls and rooms in educational establishments these days puts them out of reach of many small groups. But most pubs have back rooms that lie empty most of the week. The landlord is often quite happy to let you use a room free, on the basis that the people there will be buying drink and he will be making something on the deal.

However, in my experience this is where the problem can occur - some people occasionally think attending a class doesn’t count as being in a pub and want to bring their own, so rules have to be made to ensure the arrangement works for both the group and the landlord.

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Even after minimum pricing, you can buy a nice bottle (500ml) of good beer for less than £1.50…. However, the "mark up" in some licensed premises can be extortionate. Sometimes as much as £5-£6.
I think they get away with this because so called "craft beer" is the trendy thing these days but, in many cases, the products can just be very simple "pale or amber ales", "stouts" and so on by established and long standing brewers(I don’t want to do free advertising here 🙂) which would usually appeal more to real ale drinkers than the younger poseur crowd.
We could have a huge debate about the differences and merits or "Real Ale" V "Craft beer" (The former should technically be served from the cask, of course) but this would be out of the remit and scope of this forum.

Doanld says re Supermarkets.. "it doesn’t come with glasses, somewhere to drink it and a convivial atmosphere."

I agree although, sadly, the same applies to many pubs these days! In many bars, you have to ask for a glass and may not find a nice peaceful place to enjoy your purchase. 🙂

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Jeff,
I was going to reply to your last post but Mark got there first. What he says is more or less correct and is something which happens quite a lot around our way too.

Many bars have "back rooms" or unoccupied lounge areas which are ideal for more informal gatherings including workshops, singarounds/sessions for "shy" people and so on. Also, even for non musical meetings etc. Usually, the landlord/manager will allow use of the room free of charge or for a token payment at a quiet time. He or she may reasonably expect that the occupants will buy a drink or two at the bar and not bring in their own. However, it’s unlikely that all attendees would want to purchase something and, probably, this wouldn’t matter too much.
A lot depends on the expectations of both the management and participants in such scenarios and, as Mark says, it helps to have a few informal ground rules established from the outset.

In rural areas especially, many publicans can be very supportive when clubs, organisations, and even individuals wish to make use of their facilities in this way. They are also quite proud of being thought of as a "Community Pub".

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It’s the same case in Australia, where lots of group classes are conducted In back rooms like dance classes and chess. Might not be a good idea to have a drink until after your game..

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LOL at people in Yorkshire kvetching that a pint costs circa £3. Way to fit a stereotype, guys!

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"Id never consider bringing my own drinks or food to a venue (unless it’s a water bottle, an apple etc.)."

Eh?
Water = drink
Apple = food.

You can buy water, you can buy a snack or dessert?

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"You can buy water, you can buy a snack or dessert?"

Not everywhere but I get your drift. Where you can buy a bottle of water or snack, you should!
I’d certainly buy something from the bar or venue in addition, in any case. Mind you, tap water is fine for me rather than the bottled variety. I’ll quite often ask for tap water from the bar if I’m really thirsty or wish to "pace myself" but I’ll also spend money on something else too. So, maybe 2-4 pints and/0r a dram or two plus a couple of pints of tap water. The days of 10+ pints in a night have long gone. 🙂

My own local pub doesn’t serve any food aside from crisps, nuts etc and they don’t object to customers bringing in their own food or odd take away as long as there’s not a mess and you don’t "stick the place out" too much. However, they expect you do buy drink too and that’s fair enough.

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Going into a pub and not contributing to its income/running costs, whether by buying drinks or providing music that genuinely attracts business, is very bad form. And the one to judge whether the music is a positive for the pub is not the musician. Surely if the pub doesn’t provide your drinks it means you should be buying them.

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I did mention the overheads that pubs have to factor in when pricing their drinks, and I still maintain that the biggest percentage markup on any particular type of drink is shared by wine, and soft drinks. It would be cheaper to drink spirits, but my head and liver would not take it. As for glasses? At festivals, despite their lip service to reducing the use of disposable plastic cups, that’s what you’ll get your wine served in 90% of the time!

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You’re absolutely right Trish, the mark up on wine compared to beer has gone quite mental lately. There is more waste though if they have a decent selection.

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What Mark and Johnny wrote makes sense. Some venues are indeed welcoming to some kind of informal gatherings, e.g. club meetings, table-top games, RPG, language exchanges etc. (although personally, I see this happening a lot more in public libraries than pubs). I still think that musicial activities other than gigs or sessions are rather rare.

(These days, nearly everybody carries a water bottle, or a fruit, or a chocolate bar etc.)

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Where I grew up we used to say , and still do, “what’s comin’ around is what’s goin’ around. If you can’t support the one who makes a place for you that place will go away (and often has) and quite rightly so.

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Here’s a challenge.

Enter cafe, sit down at table, take out water, apple and chocolate.
When waitress\owner asks what you’d like to order, just reply "nothing, I just want to listen to your radio and use your toilet"

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Isn’t this all preaching to the choir? Has anyone in this thread suggested that it’s okay to sneak booze and food into a pub? Or are we all arguing with someone on Facebook?

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One local establishment (technically an Inn and which, in the last few years, has expanded to ten usable bedrooms) which is supportive to trad music, had it’s council rates raised from something like £18K a year to £50K a year. That’s nearly £1000 a week they have to find. So they’re really going to appreciate the cheapskates sipping on their tap water all night.
Even if it’s only a cup of tea, buy something. Otherwise you’re abusing someone’s hospitality which could cost a lot of people (in the case above, nearly twenty) their jobs.

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meself, there have been plenty of supportive texts here complaining about the price of drinks in bars as if that justifies not buying or even sneaking stuff in.

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Hey, Donald, that’s a bit of over-interpretation! Sure I complained about the price of wine (which incidentally applies to restaurants too) but please read again what I saud in my first post on this thread about always buying a drink, and bringing your own in being "not on".

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Sorry Trish.
It is a fact that in bars in the UK you’ll pay three or more times the retail price for drinks, so a £6 bottle of wine will cost £18 or so in a pub or restaurant and a £1 can of beer will set you back three quid.

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"a £6 bottle of wine will cost £18 or so in a pub "

So, that’s about £3 for a small glass(125mls) which seems not too bad. However, Trish reckons they charge much more than that in many places which is probably the case.
You could buy wine "by the bottle", of course, but I’d usually just have a glass or two.

As I said earlier, there also seems to be bigger mark up on so called "craft beers" sold by the bottle and soft drinks too. So, one might be forgiven for thinking that some(by no means all) bars are taking advantage. generally it’s the more trendy establishments and/or hotel bars though. Most good pubs are still quite fair, in my experience.

Anyway, this is getting way off topic and little to do with the music. And, of course, there’s never any excuse for bringing in your own drink. However, you might tend to buy fewer rounds in certain establishments!

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Is the good landlord, Johnny Jay, calling "time gentlemen (and women!) please" on this thread?

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Not at all, although it’s certainly lasted a lot longer than I thought it might…….. a bit like a really good going pub session. 🙂

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What we used to do in Kirkwall - those at The Reel who wanted tea drank tea. If like flute/guitar/singer Bruce you liked G + T, good good. If Jenny approved of anyone’s playing (usu session on Sat. night), she would give you a free drink. I left Orkney in 2017. (Oh water bottles from home quite OK).