Why don’t you hear people talking about meeting for coffee at Starbucks, then moving on to Costa for a quick frappe before congregating with a bigger group of friends at Nero for the evening? Coffee doesn’t form the centre of people’s activity in the way that alcohol does. You would be written off as a nutter if you sent out an invitation along the above lines.
But over the years I have had scores and scores of invitations that included meeting at a named pub before moving on to a bigger drinking venue, and ending up at a party via a pre-planned visit to an off-license or mini-mart. Everything centred around alcohol and nobody questioned it.
I’m not sure that our 18-24s still plan like this. Alcohol is too expense. The big brewers have shot themselves in the foot in their greed, and now young people are turned off pubs (save Wetherspoons, perhaps). Back in the 90s, pubs thought they could lure kids with sweet alco-pops, as young people started to turn their backs on traditional beer swilling boozers. It failed.
I really hope it’s true that young people are less interested in drinking than we were growing up. It’s in youth that the damage is done. I saw alcohol as a rite of passage. It was a mark of adulthood. It also made me fearless. If I did stupid things, it didn’t matter. It was the drink’s fault – although I never wanted to blame the drink in case it was taken away from me – I always took responsibility for my own drunkenness. That was my biggest problem in the end. I tried too hard to protect it at all costs.