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We banned smoking from pubs - it's time to do the same with phones

Story by Emmie Harrison-West

The pub is a beacon of Britishness.

It can be the beating heart of a community. A warm space to enjoy shelter in from the rain, to chit-chat with locals, meet strangers or people-watch over a pint. They often have sun-trap gardens for summer; boast beautiful views, or historic features in snugs to share your deepest secrets with friends alongside.

Let’s not forget the scampi fries, home-cooked food, carveries, local beers, bolshy landlords, jangling jukeboxes and ugly, sticky carpets that hold a dear place in our heart, too.

I love the pubs and their culture – and if I was being uncharitable I would say it’s possibly the only good thing about the UK.

But I think that glorious culture is on the verge of being ruined.

Except, I know the culprit – mobile phones. And it’s time to take a stand.

People are obsessed with mobile phones. Work, play, photos, porn. We can take it anywhere, and everywhere. It can even lie under our pillow while we sleep, or perched precariously on the side of the bath while we go for a poo.

You see it in our beloved watering holes, too. Pints are one of the most intimate moments you can share with someone and yet friends, families and lovers leave their phones next to, or even in, clasped hands – and for what?

Frankly I think people who are so desperate to take a call in the pub need to be ex-communicated outside to a designated area, just like happened with smokers 16 years ago this very month.

Pubs should be a safe space where you can unwind and be off-grid. The backlash has already started – one historic village boozer is banning mobile phones, in efforts to make their pub a ‘digital detox’ environment.

In an announcement on its social media last week, the Swan Inn – part of a chain that has already banned mobile phones in hundreds of its locals – also announced that only ‘well-behaved children’ were welcome, and there was a strict no swearing or workwear policy.

Reactions to the pub attempting to create a ‘calm and relaxing environment’ have (naturally) been mixed – with some vowing to boycott it, while others have praised it combatting drinkers who ‘sit with their noses stuck to their phones’.

I’m firmly in the latter camp.

Pubs should be a safe space where you can unwind, and be off-grid – but still, you can’t deny how much mobiles are interwoven into our modern society and how we interact.

And in plenty of cases, they’re essential.

Say, if you were on a date and your admirer went to the loo – you need your phone to check in with people and tell them that you’re OK, or not having a good time and need help.

Or if you were in the pub in between hospital visits to a sick relative, you might need to be ready to take a quick call outside for an update.

But what I fiercely don’t agree with is the tinny, jingling nose of Candy Crush or TikTok on full volume while I’m suppin’ a fresh pint of ale.

That, or your child’s iPad blaring an episode Paw Patrol for the whole world to hear; a mind-numbingly boring phone call about what you’re picking up from the shops later, or FaceTime with your elderly mum on speaker.

I want people to visit their local, but take their phone calls outside

It’s distracting, it’s rude and it’s ruining what makes pubs great.

It makes me feel on edge, distracted. Furious. More than once, I’ve even left a pub mid-pint as I can’t bear the noise any longer. Not what the industry needs, considering an estimated 1,000 pubs closed their doors for good last year.

Times are hard, and as a beer writer I’ll be the first to tell you the pub needs your custom more than ever right now – but too many people need a refresher lesson on basic manners. To learn boundaries when it comes to their precious devices.

I’m not old enough to remember much of when you could smoke in pubs; but I remember there being designated smoking areas in restaurants as a teen, and how disgusting it was.

And I remember that drastic change, that fog literally lifting, when it was banned for good.

It could be the same if we banned phones, too.

While I don’t think workers getting a post-5pm scoop at their local to de-stress should be prohibited – and can’t imagine going to a pubs without swearing my t**s off to my mates – we need to employ the same attitude we had with smokers with those who use their phones freely, loudly, and rudely, in pubs.

So, please, do visit your local this week – but take your call outside in the rain.

I promise you, no one but you cares or want to hear it – and, please, let me enjoy turning the air blue about how much I hate my ex, with my pals and a pint, in peace.


Re yr comment about banning phones in pubs, all Sam Smiths pubs in our area already ban them. If you are caught using one you will chucked out

Cheers Graham

Hamilton Hall has always had a


policy as it distracts at the breakfast and dinner table

and interrupts conversations and is actually, quite rude.


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