Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, May 9, 2017

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Sam Smiths brewery don’t make the headlines very often.

They were established in 1758 by the nephew of John Smith, whose brewery is still next door in Tadcaster, and it seems at times that time has stood still since they were founded.

The beer is still brewed in ‘Yorkshire Squares’ an old fashioned type of fermenting vessel. They still have a cooper who makes and repairs the oak casks in which all their Old Brewery Bitter is delivered. They still use dray horses for local deliveries and not just for show.

Their pubs are traditional, often with a bar and lounge, and definitely with no music.

They also sell the cheapest beer in the country and have pledged not to raise prices more than the cost of the raw materials, plus tax. Sounds like the perfect company, but all is not well in Sam Smith’s land. The chairman has issued an edict announcing a zero-tolerance policy against swearing in all their pubs.

In itself this is clearly a worthy aspiration, but it seems that this has been introduced rather hastily as a result of the current owner, Humphrey Smith, being upset at some of the language he heard whilst on a visit to one of their 200 outlets.

All managers have been told that ‘you are responsible for ensuring that (pubs) are run in a proper and orderly manner and this includes preventing the use of bad language.

‘If customers and staff alike swear on the premises, you must ask them to refrain from using bad language …. if they continue to do so, then you have the authority to take reasonable steps to ensure they comply i.e. you must refuse to serve them.’

I have to admit that I am in agreement with the sentiment behind the edict, and there are some local pubs that I am reluctant to patronise due to the persistence and volume of bad language, but I am not sure that a high-profile blanket ban is the best way to achieve the aims.

After all, there are several pubs I have been in recently that have notices which announce their no drug policy and my immediate reaction is that there must be a problem, otherwise the notice would not be needed.

I also remember years ago the Lincoln on the Millfleet had a ‘no swearing’ notice and the visiting darts team took this as a challenge and proceeded to swear long and loud to see what reaction they could provoke.

So, Humphrey may have the right idea, but perhaps his methods lack finesse.

It seems that while he has retained some of the best features of the Victorian era in his pubs, there are also some aspects that are less good.

A little bit of research took me to the unofficial Sam Smith’s forum and it’s clear that not everything is sweetness and light in the empire.

Still, it’s best to judge for yourself. The pubs are mainly in the north, but there are around 20 in London, including the Princess Louise in Holborn with its magnificent 1891 interior.

You will have to look carefully, though as they don’t like branding, to the point where all brewery identification has been removed from the outside of their pubs.

If you find yourself wandering in circles, try not to swear.