The Cardinals Hat calls time

A pub in Worcester, that for ten years served draught beer by the litre, has now closed due to rising costs.

“Pint taken”, the newsletter of the Worcestershire County Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) recently reported as follows:

“For ten years Worcester has been able to claim to have something quite unique. A pub selling Austrian beer by the litre! However, with rising costs, (the landlord) Andrea Limlei decided not to renew her lease and now, sadly, the Cardinals Hat is shut.

“When Andrea and her husband took over running Worcester’s oldest pub and started selling beer in litres they did not realise what they had let themselves in for. They were thrown into a major battle, which made the national papers, with trading standards who said the pub could not serve its imported lager in litre measures saying that beer could be sold only by the pint or half!”

Trading standards eventually dropped the case, saying that enforcement of this aspect weights and measures legislation does not have a high priority. Readers of Metric Views may have encountered this elsewhere, in particular in relation to the imperial pricing of fruit and veg in street markets. But, in the end, it was not regulation but economics that caused Ms Limlei to say “Time”.

UKMA takes the view that we do not need “specified quantities” at all for draught beer and cider, provided that the quantity and alcoholic strength are stated and the unit price per litre is quoted.  The excuse offered by successive UK governments is that without fixed imperial sizes for beer, drinkers would not be able to calculate their alcohol intake – although curiously this argument does not apply to wine and whisky.  In reality, the arithmetic is much easier with rounded metric quantities than with imperial units.

The claim that the sale of draught lager by the litre in the Cardinals Hat in Worcester was unique is not one we have heard before. There are plenty of other areas around the country where Trading Standards departments do not see enforcement of certain aspects of weights and measures as having high priority, and perhaps our readers are aware of other pubs and bars in the UK where draught continental beers are sold in continental measures with impunity. Prosit!

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13 Responses to The Cardinals Hat calls time

  1. Jake says:

    In June the Worcester News reported that, in 2002, trading standards officers told the pub it could not serve its imported beer in litre measures, saying beer could only be sold by the pint or half, and threatened Andrea Limlei, the Austrian landlord, with jail.
    The case came to nothing however, after it emerged Government tax on beer was calculated in metric measures.
    Whether the beer is imported or not is of course completely irrelevant. If metric units are good enough for the Government to calculate the tax due, they should be good enough for serving beer to the people of Britain regardless of whether the public house is a themed one or a traditional one.

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  2. BrianAC says:

    So what does this tell us?
    That the law that says draught beer must only be sold in pints is in fact un-enforceable (illegal) because it is contradicted by it own (government) terms of reference? Or is it that the Trading Standards will not risk a test case due to cost or it being thrown out of court?
    What we need maybe is a Metric Martyr (the right way round) to bring a test case against the government to get the law brought into disrepute.

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  3. Ken Cooper says:

    Before the Cardinal’s Hat closes, Andrea decides to contribute yet another set of new myths to the metrication debate. You could never accuse her of shying away from publicity!

    “Trading Standards Officers………….threatened Mrs. Limlei with jail”
    Penalties for breaches of the Weights and Measures Act are set out at section 84. Jail is reserved for the most serious offences (inspector disclosing trade secrets, fraud in use of weighing equipment). At most, if Mrs Limlei had been found guilty, the maximum penalty would be a fine. As such, it is highly unlikely that Mrs Limlei was threatened with jail – it makes for a better story though!

    A more accurate version of events follows.

    The Cardinal’s Hat was taken over by Mrs Limlei in July 2002. A few weeks later, she was visited by Trading Standards. They sent her a warning letter stating

    "You appear to have contravened the Weights and Measures Act 1985, therefore, it is the advice of this service that you replace your metric capacity measures with ½ and 1 pint government stamped capacity measures within 14 days of this letter. Should you fail to comply with the advice given to you, I will have no alternative to report the matter to the Head of Trading Standards for his consideration".

    I assume that Mrs Limlei then asked for a further meeting with Trading Standards. When they turned up for this meeting, they found that Mrs Limlei had also asked BWMA (and various press organisations) to attend.

    BWMA’s report of events includes the following: “They (Trading Standards) emphasised again in interviews to the press that at this stage they were not contemplating a prosecution. They claimed prosecution had never been mentioned in this case [NB This is accurate but the letter sent to Andrea was worded such that they could take the matter further if she kept on selling in litres]. The visit was amicable”

    So, rather than “threatening Mrs Limlei with jail“, Trading Standards had emphasised that they were not contemplating prosecution in the first place!

    As I suggest above, Mrs Limlei seems to have a nose for publicity, and doesn’t seem to be willing to correct any misconceptions that have arisen since.

    The claim that the case came to nothing after it emerged Government tax on beer was calculated in metric measures is also nonsense. This claim dates from 2006, when Glasgow Trading Standards warned the West Brewing Company in relation to its use of litre glasses.

    On that occasion, the bar owner was quoted as saying "Spirits and wine have to be sold in metric and I even have to pay my beer duty in metric."

    Well, duhhhh. All sales of beer apart from draught beer are in metric amounts, so the tax paid will be on these metric amounts.

    The tax issue is a total red herring. If any Trading Standards Department chose to instigate a prosecution for using metric measures to sell beer, I have no doubt that it would be successful.

    However, as always, before instigating a prosecution, any Trading Standards department should take heed of the Lacors metrication guidance at paragraph 3.7. This states:

    “3.7 In a few cases a trader may continue to use imperial units solely as a matter of principle, but in circumstances where there appears to be no detriment either to consumers or competitors. In such circumstances authorities need to consider carefully whether the public interest will be served by enforcement action which may not have an impact on consumer welfare or competitors. Authorities need to have regard to the provisions of Counsel’s Opinion in relation to the duty to enforce, the relevant points of which provide that Local Authorities may not decline to perform their statutory duties under the Act. Thus, whilst they enjoy discretion whether or not to prosecute in an individual case, that discretion may not be used to justify a general policy of non-prosecution and must be exercised reasonably. Where attention is paid on a case by case basis to whether prosecution is in the public interest it is appropriate to take into account the amount of detriment suffered by the trader’s customers or competitors.”

    This advice is equally applicable to the situation in question, where pubs are using metric equipment to sell goods which must be sold in imperial measure.

    However, “Trading Standards follow legal advice and exercise discretion not to prosecute” isn’t as good a story as “I pay my taxes in metric so you’re barred from prosecuting me”

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  4. John Steele says:

    However, prosecution could point out the absurdity of a law requiring Imperial measure for a single commodity in a nation that is trying to go metric, or the requirement for different units when the same beverage is served from bulk vs an individual serving in bottle or can.

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  5. BrianAC says:

    From Ken's reply: - However, as always, before instigating a prosecution, any Trading Standards department should take heed of the LACORS metrication guidance at paragraph 3.7. This states:
    “3.7 In a few cases a trader may continue to use imperial units solely as a matter of principle, but in circumstances where there appears to be no detriment either to consumers or competitors. In such circumstances authorities need to consider carefully whether the public interest will be served by enforcement action which may not have an impact on consumer welfare or competitors. ..."
    Interestingly, this quote is about using Imperial instead of the regulation metric. How does this relate, in a court of law, to the selling by metric quantities instead of the regulation pints and half pints?
    Personally I have never understood these stupid pint laws, why does a country hamstring itself with such useless and pointless pieces of legislation?

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  6. Jake says:

    If ever proof were needed that the weights and measures laws in the UK are an ass, then this must be it: metric measures for virtually everything in the shops but imperial measures for beer and cider on draught and for milk sold in milk bottles. I understand that the weights and measures people can only enforce the law as it stands but surely they could point out the absurdity of this situation to their masters. They must be the ones taking the flak for the mess the politicians have landed the country in.

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  7. Ken Cooper says:

    @John
    Why should an individual Trading Standards department risk ridicule & be accused of wasting public money to highlight that the law is ridiculous? Campaigns of this type are surely a matter for organisations like UKMA.

    @Brian
    I realise that the Lacors advice that I quoted relates to traders who still insist in selling in Imperial. However, the legal principle remains the same when applied to a publican delivering draught beer in metric instead of the prescribed imperial measure. I remain convinced that a trader using metric measure to sell draught beer would be found guilty if (and that’s a big if!) a prosecutor decided to actually proceed to court

    @Jake
    I wrote one of the 127 responses to the most recent government consultation

    http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20090902212222/nmo.bis.gov.uk/fileuploads/legislation/sq_part_2_government_response_final.pdf

    I was one of the “small number of respondents” who “favoured a move to metric measures for beer and cider” Specifically, I asked for 250 ml measures (and multiples) to be introduced, but as an alternative to half-pints/pints – i.e. if a pub chose to sell draught half-litres, it couldn’t sell draught pints too. If larger numbers of individual responses had expressed similar sentiments, the government might have paid some attention. As such, I feel that I personally did my bit. Did you?

    Now, looking at the other names there, I can pick out another two or three who probably specifically asked for a move to allow metric measure for draught beer. I’m not even sure if that includes UKMA though! [Yes - it did]

    As far as I am aware, UKMA policy is to remove the current requirement to sell beer in specified quantities and to require quantity, alcoholic strength & price per litre to be marked on pub price boards.

    As such, I would assume that UKMA would be willing to accept a pub price board which states “Stella Artois 568 ml 5.0% £5.28/litre” and a pint of Stella being charged at £3.00?

    Personally, I cannot see how this would improve the current situation – indeed, I feel that it would confuse matters further. As such, can I suggest that you firstly ask UKMA to clarify their own position before requesting anyone else to lobby on this issue 🙂

    [Can't see the problem with Ken's example. In this case, the pub would have the option of selling by the pint or in submultiples of a litre (e.g. 300 mL, 500 mL, 600 mL etc - preferably in a lined glass indicating the amount), but the unit price would be per litre (with the option of a price per pint). Exactly as on labels at the supermarket deli counter. What's wrong with that? - Editor]

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  8. John Steele says:

    @Ken

    I wasn't suggesting that they should. I think it is an example of "discretion is the better part of valor." NIST did something similar in a survey they did of products improperly labelled in metric only, when dual is required in the US. No prosecution followed, and they gently pointed out that the proposed permissive metric-only amendment to the FPLA wouldn't cause the world to end, because no one had noticed or cared even when it wasn't strictly legal. Unfortunately, it still hasn't been passed to Congress or brought to a vote, because of continued opposition from the idiots at FMI, and that fact the Congress is currently fractured and completely dysfunctional.
    (NIST has limited authority to advocate, and they go as far as they can, which isn't far.)

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  9. Wild Bill says:

    The comment above mentions NIST's approach being to point out gently to the US government and the US public that no-one seemed to have noticed or cared about technically illegal metric-only labelling in the 'States.

    Similar practice could be used here. No one here seems to have noticed or care that when they "go for a pint" there's a significant number of cases where they get 500ml or a bit more, but well less than the 568ml they might have expected.

    If your pub doesn't do the beer you want on draught, they'll sell you a can or a bottle of it (if they have it at all). In many cases, that's 500ml in your glass. The worst case (and this is a scam) is where you like to drink real ale, and the pub uses brim measure glasses. It seems that the law actually allows a publican to pour you a short measure so that the beer can have its 'head' and rumours are that some pub chains teach their bar staff how to make the beer head be as frothy as possible in order to minimise the amount of beer they actually sell you.

    Now this is a practice that we all ought to write to our MPs about and require that it be made illegal, in other words to make brim measure glasses illegal.

    And you can predict the counter attack from the glass manufacturers: "oh we've spent millions of quid on tooling to make these glasses, it'll bust us to have to change it all now".

    And I can suggest the UKMA's retort (which ought to be the government's retort too) : "ah well, you can keep making the glasses, but they (and the others sorts) must be marked with a line at the 500ml point from and that's to be the new measure for draught beer from then on". And from that date brim measures should be made illegal - much to the cheering of lovers of real ale (myself included) and of lovers of Guinness and any other beer on which you expect a "head".

    I wouldn't be surprised to learn that British makers of pub glassware already sell 568ml brim measures to the continent with a 500ml line marked a centimetre or two down. They'd be missing a fine export possibility if they didn't.... I doubt they've not realised.

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  10. idebenone says:

    When the Metrication Board was abolished in 1980, agreement had been reached with the EEC regarding the use of certain imperial measures until the end of 1989, a date that was subsequently extended to 1999. Although by this date most pre-packaged goods were sold in metric quantities, loose goods and goods weighed in front of the customer continued to be sold in imperial quantities. In 1999, when the British Government allowed the derogation for the use imperial units to lapse, all goods (apart from draught beer and cider, and milk in returnable containers) had to be priced in metric units.

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  11. Ken Cooper says:

    @ Wild Bill
    There aren't any bulk British makers of pub glassware. It's all imported as far as I'm aware.

    Ravenhead in St Helens, who were the biggest pint glass manufacturer (as far as I recall) went bust in 2001. There was some investigation into the collapse by the Serious Fraud Office.

    @idebenone

    That's a quite misleading summary. It does not address the timing of the change from gallons to litres for petrol/diesel, or 1/4, 1/5 or 1/6 gills to 25 or 35 ml in pubs, or primary metric markings on pre-packed average quantity goods.

    In addition, it perpetuates the myth that all beer and cider can be sold in imperial units. As Wild Bill correctly states, this derogation only applies to draught beer and cider. Currently, all pre-packed beer and cider is packed in metric units (occasionally with supplementary imperial indications marked too). As far as I am aware, there are no plans to change this situation.

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  12. Mary says:

    Info from The Worcestershire County CAMRA newsletter (Summer 2013) ...
    (i)The Cardinals Hat in Worcester re-opened in April.
    The new landlord is Nigel Smith.
    (ii) Worcester's newest, but also oldest, pub is the King Charles, which opened in May. It is a 15th century building.

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  13. Mark Preston says:

    I was wondering recently why the UK is fairly unique in stipulating measures for alcohol. I have traveled all over the place and have always found that drinks are never measured, there are no lines marked on glasses and rarely are the quantities stipulated. You see a large beer at a particular price and you order it, you ask for a wine and that just slosh into the glass what they think is a correct service. Similarly cocktails are rather 'thrown' together and not measure out in tiny cups. I have had beers in bars ranging from 200ml up to a litre and it has never concerned me that I didn't know exactly how much I was going to be served. How did it come to be that we are fixated with 568ml, 118.75ml ??, 25ml etc ?

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