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How Does Dumping Beer Help British Pubs Survive The Pandemic?


There's something happening in the U.K. right now that is reminiscent of Prohibition in the United States. You remember those old pictures of bar owners pouring out gallons and gallons of booze?


Oh, yeah. Well, British pub owners today are dumping all the beer that's gone bad during the months they were in lockdown.

DUNCAN SMITH: During the 14-week shutdown, a significant amount of our beers and lagers became out of date.

KING: That's Duncan Smith (ph). He's been a bartender for 33 years, and one of the pubs that he operates has been around for 250 years.

SMITH: It's been serving the community for that long and, you know, been through world wars and all the rest of it and, obviously, very different times that long ago. And something comes along like this, which could wipe it out, and we've got to take any benefit we possibly can, thrown out by the government and the suppliers, in order to survive.

INSKEEP: The way of survival may seem paradoxical at first. He has thrown away 1,000 U.K. gallons - which is almost 8,000 pints - of beer to make room for replacements.

SMITH: It's quite a surreal process. Normally, I'm quite obsessive about waste, certainly beer waste. But it had to go in order to get the credit. So - and any help in times like this to aid survival is important.

KING: In order to get the help, he has to properly dispose of the beer.

SMITH: Our suppliers came up with a system of disposal, and it was partially paid for by them reclaiming the governmental duty on the alcohol that obviously wasn't sold. So that had to be proved. So the process was to liaise with the water and sewage company, and they had particular demands about the time of day that you tipped the amount of beer away. And we could only do 11 gallons in any one hour, so it didn't tip the eco-balance.

INSKEEP: One thousand gallons total, 11 per hour - a slow process that's mirrored by slow business. Smith's pubs just began to reopen, but he says people still are hesitant to go out.

SMITH: It's very slow coming back, and we'll have to see how Week 2 goes. But it's not encouraging just yet.

KING: So for the moment, he'll be drinking a courage lager and hoping for the day that things go back to normal.

(SOUNDBITE OF CANYONS OF STATIC'S "SHELTER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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