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Why the 'baby lager louts' are toying with the goodwill of a growing army of angry pub-goers.

Byline: Robin Turner

MORE " baby lager louts" are ruining the experience of pub-goers across Wales than ever before, a new guide has found.

Editors of The Good Pub Guide 2009 have received a record number of complaints from readers about visits to their local watering hole being ruined by badly behaved children.

Now in its 27th year and released today, the guide provides up-to-date information on more than 55,000 pubs across Wales and the rest of the UK.

The Inn of the Year and Wales Dining Pub of the Year titles have gone to the family run 16th century coaching inn The Groes at Ty'n y Groes, near Conwy.

But across the country, feedback from guide readers revealed "unchecked" children were increasingly disturbing the experiences of pub-goers across the UK.

Writing in the highly regarded guide's introduction, joint editor Alasdair Aird said: "This year more readers than ever before have complained to us about pub visits being spoilt for them by badly behaved children running around unchecked.

"This is a peculiarly British problem - in continental restaurants and cafes it's normal to see families with children, not normal to see kids spoil things for grown-ups."

Justin Humphreys, 40, a director of the award-winning Groes Inn, said landlords had to use "discreet diplomacy" when it came to children in pubs.

"At the Groes Inn we are not really an establishment aimed at children but obviously we have to cater for all our customers - some of whom will want to bring children with them," he said.

"Fortunately, most of our customers are nice people and their children are well behaved.

"But it's something you have to keep an eye on and handle with discreet diplomacy.

"It can be difficult commenting on the behaviour of children but, thankfully, we have not encountered too many problems."

Simon Buckley, a member of one of Wales' oldest pub and brewing families as chief executive of the Evan Evans Brewery based in Llandeilo, has strong views on the subject.

He said: "I am all for promoting family friendly pubs but parents must ensure their children are well behaved.

"What should be an enjoyable social experience can be ruined by children running around and shouting.

"I think parents have to realise that their children have a boredom threshold of around an hour or an hour and a half. After that, it's often time to go home.

"Licensees cannot, and should not, act as parents. It is the parents themselves who have responsibility for the way their children behave in public. You have to remember, too, that many pubs now serve hot food so there could be a health and safety issue.

"And in these litigious times someone could end up being sued if something hot is spilled and someone is scalded.

"Children enjoy going to a pub and a family atmosphere is fine but there's a limit to the amount of time children should be in a pub. Thankfully, most parents realise that, but there are some who don't."

Mr Aird added: "We confess that we can't see an easy solution.

We could start treating parents who let their children run riot with the disdain normally reserved for lager louts.

"But would that have any impact on people who think they are entitled to a thoroughly relaxed family day out?

"And you can imagine the retort when a publican asks a badly behaved family to quieten their children - 'We've just spent over 50 quid here, do you want us to leave without paying' But there is one place where drinkers can be guaranteed a child-free pint.

At the Rummer Tavern opposite Cardiff Castle all children are barred.

David Gates, a member of the pub's bar staff said: "The management decided some time ago on a no child policy and we simply do not let people in under 18.

"It can be a bit awkward sometimes when we have to turn some people away if they want to bring their children with them, but most people know about it now and there are few problems.

"From a personal point of view I think it's inconsiderate for adult customers to take their children into the pub with them because children find it boring. It's also dangerous to have children running around in a busy pub."

This year's overall winner of the Pub of The Year 2009 award went to The Golden Heart, near Brimpsfield, Gloucestershire, for its "affordable food, good beers, welcoming atmosphere and bags of character".

But ale lovers won't be pleased to hear the average price of a pint of bitter is up 7% from last year - to pounds 2.58, a survey by the guide found.

But while Wales does not have the cheapest pint of bitter - that accolade goes to the West Midlands at pounds 2.25 - it comes around halfway in a survey of 41 counties in England and Wales. An average pint of bitter in Welsh pubs comes out at pounds 2.57.

In Scotland it is pounds 2.66. The most expensive was Surrey at pounds 2.88.

This means a pint-a-week pub-goer in Wales would shell out more than pounds 16 a year more than someone in the West Midlands.

Published by Ebury Press, the Good Pub Guide 2009 is out now, priced pounds 15.99

'Real family Inn' grabs top prize in pub guide

The Groes, at Ty'n y Groes, near Conwy - winner of The Good Pub Guide's Inn of the Year 2009 - is a family run concern and is also one of Wales' oldest coaching inns.

Justin Humphreys, a director of the business, runs the inn with his wife, Jane, and mother, Dawn.

The Groes, which appointed Mark Williams of Llandudno Junction as its new chef earlier this year, also won the Wales Dining Pub of the Year 2009 award.

The inn is sited on one of the old drovers' routes through North Wales.

It has a mix of locals from the tiny village and the surrounding area, as well as tourists and business visitors.

The inn is close to sailing, fishing, walking and golf facilities and its most popular pint is Orme Best Bitter, brewed by Mr Humphreys' cousin at the Great Orme Brewery.

Mr Humphreys said: "It's a real family concern."

The Good Pub Guide 2009 national award winners

Pub of the Year - Golden Heart, Brimpsfield, Gloucester, above

Inn of the Year - Groes Inn, Ty'n-y-groes, near Conwy. (also wins Wales Dining Pub of the Year)

Beer Pub of the Year - Tom Cobley, Spreyton, Devon

National Dining Pub of the Year - Lord Poulett Arms, Hinton St George, Somerset Wine Pub of the Year - Woods, Dulverton, Somerset

New Pub of the Year - Tally Ho, Barkway, Hertfordshire

Unspoilt Pub of the Year - Square and Compass, Worth Matravers, Dorset

Bargain Pub of the Year - Six Bells, Chiddingly, Sussex

Town Pub of the Year - Jerusalem Tavern, London

Country Pub of the Year - Royal Oak, Fritham, Hampshire

Whisky Pub of the Year - Port Charlotte Hotel, Port Charlotte, Isle of Islay

Hotel Bar of the Year - George of Stamford, Stamford, Lincolnshire

Own Brew Pub of the Year - Brewery Tap, Peterborough

Licensees of the Year - Mark and Sue Watts, The Rising Sun, Swanmore, Hants

Good Pub Guide 2009 regional price variations for a pint of bitter

West Midlands - pounds 2.25

Cheshire - pounds 2.38

Cumbria - pounds 2.41

Herefordshire - pounds 2.45

Yorkshire - pounds 2.46

Shropshire - pounds 2.48

Cornwall - pounds 2.49

Devon - pounds 2.53

Cambridgeshire, Gloucestershire, Somerset - pounds 2.56.

Wales - pounds 2.57

Sussex - pounds 2.70

Scotland pounds 2.66.

Oxfordshire - pounds 2.71

Suffolk, Warwickshire - pounds 2.72

Bucks - pounds 2.76

Berkshire - pounds 2.78

London - pounds 2.81

Surrey - pounds 2.88

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 14, 2008
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