What is the world coming to?

It used to be, you could walk into your favorite watering hole, have a few beers, play some darts, and share a few stories with your friends without having to worry about your language. Now, in some drinking establishments in England, this is no longer the case, because they want to appeal more to families.

According to the BBC, the Samuel Smith’s brewery chain, with more than 200 pubs across the United Kingdom, has instituted a “zero tolerance policy” on the use of profanity in its pubs. The chain, known for its “uncompromisingly Victorian aesthetic,” has joined in with other pubs and establishments that have instituted dress policies and other rules in an effort to reign in rowdy behavior.

Is this going too far?

Many pub goers are, not surprisingly, outraged. “The British pub is an institution where people go to enjoy themselves, an informal place where class and salary are forgotten,” as a member of the Campaign for Real Ale — said to represent 187,000 beer drinkers around the world — told The Wall Street Journal. “We don’t need rules to restrict that.” Other customers were…well…a little more profane in their points of view.

But the owners of Samuel Smith’s are just adjusting to the times. Sure, back in the day the pub was no place for children or the easily offended. But things are different now. Go to London and you’ll see that many of these places are no longer the independent saloons of yore. They’re corporate-owned restaurants that cater to families, and you can’t do that if people are cussing and misbehaving.

One of the many great things about running your own business is that you can make your own rules. You can refuse to serve people. You can levy a tax on your male customers (like this cafe owner in Australia recently did). Depending on where you live, you can decline to sell to people who offend your religious principles or morals. You can require a dress code. You even can forbid swearing. It’s your livelihood. It’s where you spend the majority of your day. It’s how you want people to perceive you. But just be careful.

Sometimes business owners take a stand — whether political or religious — to demonstrate their principles or commitment to a cause. That’s admirable. But it may not be very profitable. You probably don’t have the resources to invest in the kind of research big companies do. If you’re like me, most of the time you’re making your decisions based on a little data and a lot of hunches.

If you’re about to institute a rule or a policy that could be considered controversial or upset a significant proportion of your customers (and community), think hard about it.

I’m sure the executives at Samuel Smith’s thought long and hard before implementing their no-swearing policy. But they also did something else. Although big companies make mistakes all the time, I’m betting that those executives opened up the corporate checkbook and employed the help of market research firms and consultants to gather enough data to be able to make this decision. They knew it would be controversial — and I doubt they made this difficult decision based on emotions, passion, or some religious or moral reasons.

They made this decision based on profitability. So go ahead — refuse to serve men, or people with a different political persuasion, if that’s your thing. I’m not saying all of your decisions should be motivated by profits. But for the sake of your employees, and your own future livelihood, they probably should be.

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