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Motorway Pubs: Free drink with every roast on the road – but is it alcoholic? #drinkdrive @ThinkSaferRoads

Following on from our blog on pubs serving alcohol on the motorway with our friends in the Road Safety team, (Motorway pub open for business) we here in Warwickshire with its extensive motorway network couldn’t resist probing a little deeper into this contentious issue.

M40 Beaconsfield Services, an ideal location for a ‘beery’ business lunch, stop off on the way to a match and more importantly selling booze for folk who want a break from driving now has a brand new Wetherspoons Pub with a delightful range of real ales, spirits and wine.

From a road safety perspective, this sounds like a recipe for disaster. Before our visit we were expecting 2 for 1, free pints and other heavily discounted booze offers luring the unsuspecting driver into a booze fuelled, drink drive fit of frenzy.

The reality was slightly different. Think! Don’t Drink and Drive etched onto the windows with a menu heavily reminding drivers that they ‘can’t calculate their alcohol limit: Don’t Drink and Drive’. The free pint with a meal offer, typical of the chains high street pubs, had been replaced with a free soft drink with every meal offer. The menu also contained a range of mocktails to tempt punters away from booze.

Alcohol wise, beer, wine and spirits were all more expensive than a Highstreet Wetherspoons, although we reckon still cheaper than most pubs charge: a pint of beer starting at £2.69 with premium lagers from £3.99. Compare this to a 99p bottomless coffee though and the temptation for most people will be cheap hot drinks, much cheaper in fact compared to the market leaders in this sector operating in the main foot hall next door.

So with all these anti-alcohol measures in place, what was the impact on the customers?

A brief lunchtime survey out of 40 or so customers revealed a couple with a pint and a half between them and a table full of businessmen brandishing a pint each. This wasn’t the booze fuelled pub we were expecting.

Wetherspoons

There’s no doubt that the vast majority of people will not touch a drop of alcohol and will be happy to sip away their coffee over a cheap lunch. However, there is a very strong temptation for under the limit drink driving be it through a business meeting or through just having a half over dinner.

Yes, there is an M&S selling alcohol, but with very clear instructions that opening up a cheeky bottle of Merlot in the services is strictly not allowed.

It is likely that the vast majority of those taking advantage of the wide range of alcohol available will be passengers, probably by the coach loads in fact. You can just imagine that post Rugby match pint or even stag and hen parties making a bee line to the services – a great place to get the Stag his first or even tenth pint of the day on the way to the stag do.

The question is therefore, is it acceptable for a driver to have a pint and then hit the motorway at 70mph? It probably isn’t a good idea, but without a catastophic event occurring in the future which can be attributed to a ‘beering’ up at the services, we are sure that the M40 Beaconsfield Services will not be the last motorway pub in the UK.

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