When the sky is as blue as it is today, our thoughts turn to the idea of a nice cold pint on a sunny street corner. Such is true, we’d guess, of many others in this great city of ours.
So we’re ever so slightly worried by today’s news that the JD Wetherspoon pub company is planning to open a new hostelry. On the M40.
The £2 million development will be sited at the Extra services in Beaconsfield, just outside the city limits in Buckinghamshire, and is expected to create 50 jobs. “Hopefully,” the firm’s chair Tim Martin said, “it will be the first of many Wetherspoon’s on the motorway.” Because what could possibly go wrong with that.
Our feelings on this one are best described as ‘mixed’. On the one hand, the food in a Wetherspoons is almost certainly going to be better value than most of the grub on offer in a service station. And by definition, more than half the people on a motorway at any one time won’t be driving (think about this for five seconds and you’ll see it’s true): why should the average coach-travelling pensioner be denied convenient access to their half of best?
What’s more, even on a glorious day like today, those who are silly enough to drink and drive are unlikely to fancy a swift half in a Buckinghamshire car park. As it stands there’s nothing to stop them leaving the motorway in search of a country pub anyway. Does this really make any difference?
Well, yes, say various concerned parties. Road safety charity Brake said the move is “putting temptation there in front of drivers”, and called for big signs warning about the danger of drink-driving. Meanwhile Sir Ian Gilmore, the chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, argued that we should be decreasing access to alcohol, rather than making it more available. “Opening a bar at a service station sends out completely the wrong message,” he added.
There’s one more tiny irony in all this. These days you’re no longer allowed to drink on the tube – but the hard stuff will be on offer just off the hard shoulder. Go figure.