Controversy erupted today with the news that JD Wetherspoon has been given permission to open its first motorway pub. Intended to open in time for Christmas, the bar and restaurant will be situated at the Beaconsfield services which are just off junction two on the M40. Before submitting its application, the firm consulted Thames Valley Police and South Bucks District Council to see if there was likely to be any opposition. In their own words: “the application received no representations.” Licensed to sell alcohol between 08:00 and 01:00, the £2m development is expected to create 50 jobs.
However, in the present climate, such a move was always going to attract criticism. Road safety charity Brake claimed that Wetherspoon were "putting temptation in front of drivers” and that “Our advice to drivers is, if you are driving, don't drink any amount of alcohol." Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, has also waded into the debate: "To reduce alcohol-related harm, we have to reduce its availability, not increase it.” A Wetherspoon spokesman said: "We believe the majority of people that use the pub to drink will be people that aren't driving - coach parties or people travelling with others.”
What seems to have been missed here is that most drivers stopping off here won’t want an alcoholic drink. They’ll probably just want the usual services on offer and to be able to take advantage of Wetherspoon’s more competitive pricing.