Older drinkers without smartphones ‘at risk of discrimination in pubs’

Taz Ali, PA
·2-min read

Older drinkers are at risk of being discriminated against for not having smartphones to order food and drinks at pubs and restaurants, a charity has warned.

As lockdown restrictions eased in England, some pubs are asking punters to order beverages through an online app in order to minimise contact with staff.

Older people charity Age UK said the measure rules out half of those aged 65 to 74 and 70% of the over-75s because they do not use a smartphone.

One such person is widower David Walters, 78, who told the Telegraph the policy was “ageist” after he was denied service at The Angel of Corbridge pub in Northumberland.

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He claimed he was told by staff that customers had to use an app to order and submit contact details to NHS Test and Trace.

He told the newspaper: “I just thought it was terrible. Older people like me don’t have this computer knowledge because we weren’t brought up with computers.”

Official Government guidance states venues should ensure there is a way for an individual to provide their contact details “if they do not own a smartphone or have access to digital routes”, and suggests paper records.

It says: “You must make sure that there is a method of checking in that does not rely on the customer using a smartphone or other technology in order not to digitally exclude people without access to these technologies.”

Pub owner Kevin Laing said the app was a temporary measure until indoor hospitality is set to return on May 17, and that he and his staff were “just doing the best we could at the time, and following the advice and guidelines to try and keep guests and staff safe”.

He told the Telegraph: “I’m not discriminating against elderly people or young people, it just seems that if people haven’t got a smartphone then it doesn’t suit them.”

In a report published last month, Age UK found that while just under a quarter of over-75s in England have increased their internet usage since the pandemic hit, most older online users say their use has remained unchanged, with nearly one in 10 using it less.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said the requirement for people to use apps in pubs and restaurants “risks widening the digital divide and reducing the opportunities for some older people to enjoy socialising once again”.

She added: “We fully understand the need for venues to pay attention to infection control but it would be helpful to their bottom lines, as well as to older people, if they ensure that smartphone use is not a precondition for buying a drink or a meal.”