City of European cafe culture? More like being in a war zone
Ryan James would support minimum alcohol pricing
EXCLUSIVE: Kate Devine
Published on 13 Feb 2010
The new chair of Glasgow Restaurateurs’ Association says the city reminds him of Guernica – Picasso’s violent painting of a war-ravaged Spanish village.
Ryan James, 44, owner of Two Fat Ladies group, made his comparison to the famous painting because of the number of young drunken hooligans flooding the city centre at weekends.
Mr James, who took over the chair earlier this year, also said he would support the Scottish Government’s proposal to introduce a minimum price for alcohol because he believes it would help curb antisocial behaviour in the city, which he describes as “completely unacceptable”.
The GRA represents the views of 76 restaurants, about a third of the city’s total, though he wants to increase membership by 50%.
He said: “In Glasgow on a Saturday night you’d think you were in Guernica, and not part of the European cafe culture society. Young people turn up drunk because they’ve bought ridiculously cheap alcohol in shops and supermarkets and consumed it before coming in to town.
“Gangs of drunken youths rampaging through the streets is putting off not only tourists but also local people from coming into town to eat in a restaurant.
“They see policemen in high-visibility vests patrolling the streets, and though this may be a comfort to locals, it can be alarming for tourists who feel an unpleasant incident is imminent.
“This is simply unacceptable, especially in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games in 2014 when it will become one of the biggest conference centres in the UK, if not Europe.
“The source of the problem is the retailers. Shops and supermarkets are being allowed to continue with special offers on alcohol when publicans and restaurateurs cannot. We’re allowing people to get so off their faces they don’t know what they’re doing. For this reason I would support the introduction of a minimum price for alcohol.”
Mr James’s comments come in the wake of support for minimum pricing, reported in yesterday’s Herald, from an international group of scientific advisers, who wrote to MSPs urging them to adopt a ban on cheap alcohol.
Glasgow’s licensing board recognises Valentine’s Day tomorrow and St Patrick’s Day in March will result in numerous drinks promotions.
But these will clash with similar promotions in the city’s restaurants, and Mr James believes the restaurants will suffer.
A spokesman for the licensing board said: “We recognise alcohol misuse is a serious problem and we are committed to working with other stakeholders to try to tackle the social problems associated with alcohol misuse.
“As to the introduction of a minimum price for alcohol, we welcome proposals to amend irresponsible drinks promotions in off-sales as well as on-sales [restaurants, pubs and clubs].
“However, we consider that in order to be in any way effective, it would require to be introduced as part of a series of measures designed to tackle the problems associated with alcohol misuse.
“The licensing board considers a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach will not provide a solution to these problems and that any such measures have to be part of a sustained and targeted educational programme.”
Mr James wants to increase the membership of GRA to at least 100 establishments in order to strengthen its voice, and would like Jamie Oliver to be involved when his new restaurant opens in the city centre in May because he would help increase the association’s lobbying power.
“Restaurants are the cash cow for the Government and Glasgow City Council, but we’re getting nothing in return,” he added. “We pay business rates, licensing costs, wages, national insurance and other costs faithfully every month. We even pay for our own glass recycling. But there’s nobody trying to help us out.”
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “While we have never said minimum pricing is a ‘silver bullet’, there is a growing consensus it can be a key weapon in the battle against alcohol misuse. The Glasgow Restaurateurs’ Association’s support adds to a growing coalition in favour of minimum pricing for alcohol.”